Short Fuse on Possession Findings

Under Rules 296 through 299 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, a Request for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law must be made within twenty days of the date the judgment is signed. But there is a special rule for findings concerning a departure from the standard possession order. Those findings must be requested within ten days “after the date of the hearing or on oral request made in open court during the hearing.” Tex. Fam. Code § 153.258.*

Request for Findings Too Late

In Pickens v. Pickens, No. 12-13-00235-CV (Tex. App. – Tyler Feb. 28, 2014) (mem. op.), the trial court ordered that the father have possession of the parties’ daughter fourteen out of every twenty-eight days and that he designate his days of possession at least two weeks in advance. Clearly, this order departed from the standard possession order. The mother appealed the case, but because she asked for findings under Rules 296 through 298, and she filed her request too late, the trial court was not required to make findings justifying the unusual possession schedule.

Harmless Error

In this instance, the failure to obtain findings was harmless. The evidence showed that the father worked offshore on a two-weeks-on / two-weeks-off schedule. Under the standard possession order, the father would not have possession of his daughter as much as the standard possession order contemplated. The trial court did not abuse its discretion when ordering two-weeks-on / two-weeks-off possession.

Request for Findings When Order Varies From Standard Order

* Section 153.258 states in full:

Without regard to Rules 296 through 299, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, in all cases in which possession of a child by a parent is contested and the possession of the child varies from the standard possession order, on written request made or filed with the court not later than 10 days after the date of the hearing or on oral request made in open court during the hearing, the court shall state in the order the specific reasons for the variance from the standard order.

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