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The Texas Family Code, in creating the standard orders that many parents end up using their divorce decrees, tries to account for how parenting time is apportioned in most scenarios. There are rules governing the regular school year, the summer months, and the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. If you look close enough, you’ll even see that there’s a provision for birthdays.

Section 153.314, which handles the holiday season parameters we discussed in an article several weeks ago, also discusses what happens for a child’s birthday. The language states:

The parent not otherwise entitled under this standard possession order to present possession of a child on the child’s birthday shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. on that day, provided that the parent picks up the child from the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place.

This means that if it’s Mom’s night with the kids, Dad would be able to pick up the child having a birthday from Mom’s at 6, do dinner or some other birthday celebration, and have the child back by 8. This allows both parents to spend time with the child on a special day — a day on which parents absolutely want to make their child feel special.

The provision doesn’t technically account for siblings, and it also doesn’t account for what happens if the child doesn’t get home until after 6. Like the other items in Section 153, it sets guidelines trying to apply to as many parents as possible, missing some “what if?” considerations along the way. If you’re adopting this for your own decree, and you want to modify the language slightly (to guarantee two hours, or to specify a slightly longer time, or do birthday visitation on a specific day of the week rather than the child’s actual birthday), you’re certainly able to work with your attorney to accomplish this. Anything too far afield of the standard decree, of course, might raise questions from the other party — so figuring out what you want out of birthday possession time, and how important it is to you, needs to figure in what you want to articulate.

Of course, as we say about everything in the parenting plan, it’s supposed to be there as a guideline, to fall back on when parents can’t come to agreement on what works best for their children. If there’s a better birthday plan for your child than a 6-8 visit with one parent, and both parents can get on board with it, it’s better to do the agreed-upon alternative.

If both parents can celebrate together with their child, especially during and immediately after the divorce, that can be something that helps the child with the transition to divorce. Of course, that’s not always possible, and it’s not the best option for every child, but it can be a great way for parents to demonstrate their love for their child — and to show they can work together even though they’re no longer married. If there’s a day of the year where parents should come together in the best interest of a child, a birthday is at the top of the list.