What Rules Govern Possession (Custody and Visitation) During the Pandemic?
Many divorced parents might be wondering how COVID-19 has affected court orders for child custody and visitation.
The Supreme Court of Texas issued an order that clarified schedules from lawsuits that affect the parent-child relationship. In cases where a court-ordered possession schedule existed, the original published school schedule must be followed. An epidemic or pandemic that results in school closure does not affect possession or access. This includes COVID-19.
In addition, various counties have issued their own orders specific to child custody and visitation.
Denton County Standing Order for Possession During COVID-19
Denton County has issued a standing order that indicates exchanges of children for possession are considered an essential activity. The “Stay at Home” and “Shelter in Place” orders do not affect court orders regarding custody and visitation.
If a parent or child is diagnosed with COVID-19, the parent should inform the other parent. Together they can discuss what is in the best interests of the child.
There is another standing order that Denton County also released for child protection cases that are instituting the use of Zoom, Skype or Face Time or other telephonic or video platforms for visitation. For extraordinary cases, the court may order an in person hearing. For the most part, hearings will be conducted using remote means.
Collin County Standing Order for Possession During COVID-19
Collin County issued a standing order for court ordered parent-child schedules. This includes parents with pending divorce cases that involve children.
The original schedule controls possession in all instances.
- A person not entitled to possession of the child under the original published school schedule shall return the child to the person entitled to possession.
- If the school cancelled spring break, then the regular school schedule arrangement for visitation applies.
Even though school is closed, if a parent regularly had visitation on Thursdays, then that arrangement still applies.
If schools are still closed during the summer, then parents will follow the original published school schedule for the extended summer possession.
What Can You Do If Your Ex Will Not Follow the Standing Orders?
Your attorney can take legal action on your behalf to ensure possession occurs as ordered under the law. Texas courts continue to follow the guideline of “what is in the best interests of the child” when deciding cases.
If you believe your child’s safety is in danger or your ex will not abide by the court-ordered visitation, consult with your lawyer.
Attorney Thomas Little is glad to answer your questions and explain how possession works during the COVID-19 shutdown. He can help protect your rights.