As many of you are aware, many counties in Texas have issued stay-at-home or shelter in place orders. As a result, parents might be wondering how that affects co-parenting their children. These are the top questions we are receiving right now.
What about the court-ordered visitation in place for my family? How will pick up and drop off of my children work for the weekend?
First, you must continue to comply with your current court order if you have one. The Texas Supreme Court has decided that the shelter in place orders shall not change any orders already in place about possession of and access to children. This order can be found by going to https://www.txcourts.gov and searching for docket number 20-9050. This order is effective from March 24 to May 8. It could be extended, or modified, if needed. If there are special circumstances in your case, such that following your possession order would endanger your child’s health or safety, you should speak with an attorney about seeking an emergency modification of the visitation order.
Second, most custody orders give parents the flexibility to agree on visitation changes as the need arises. The best practice is to document this agreement in writing. That writing could be a text message or email. For example, if one of the parents or someone in their home comes down with COVID-19, the other parent may agree to pick up the children for their own protection.
What if my child’s other parent is keeping the child in violation of a court order?
Contact an attorney. Many courts are scheduling hearings by teleconference and an attorney might be able to file a motion the Judge could consider by teleconference. Nobody would have to go to the courthouse. Everything would be done by phone or an online video conference.
What if you were under a supervised visitation order?
It may be that the normal location for supervised visitation is closed. It may be impossible to follow the supervised visitation order right now. If this is your situation, you should contact an attorney to get specific legal advice.
If you or your children find yourselves in a life-threatening situation, please call 911. Legal and non-legal resources are available for victims of domestic violence, family violence, sexual abuse, and child abuse at Texas Crime Victim Legal Assistance Network.
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.
Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, firstname.lastname@example.org