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Custody issues during the COVID-19 outbreak clarified by court

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2020 | Child Custody


Many Texas officials first became aware of the seriousness of the outbreak right around the time that kids were due to go on spring break from school. Now, it’s uncertain when schools will return to normal. That’s left some parents unsure how to interpret their visitation schedules.

Undoubtedly, most parenting plans never anticipated a pandemic that would put the kids on an indefinite spring break. Texas courts have issued statements, however, that make the operating orders perfectly clear. Under these orders, parents should follow their original published school schedule. 

The Emergency Orders On March 17 And 24

On March 17, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order regarding child custody orders. Under the order that is effective until May 8, 2020, the child’s “original published school schedule shall control in all instances.” 

Essentially, this means that if your child was set to return to their other parent’s care at the end of a scheduled spring break, they should still be returned according to that original schedule. School closure will not affect your custody schedule, and you can’t keep the kids at your house simply because they were with you when everything shut down. They have to go back to your ex-spouse’s care at the anticipated date.

The courts have made it a point to be very clear about this issue so that they aren’t inundated with unnecessary requests for hearings. 

The 7th emergency order from the Supreme Court of Texas, which went into effect on March 24, essentially says the same thing. It specifically points out that “possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement.”

What Happens If Your Ex Gets Sick?

But what if your ex-spouse is sick? What if someone else in their household is sick?

While you can’t insist on keeping your kids with you based solely on your belief that your ex-spouse can’t adequately protect them from the virus, you do have a right to protect your kids from a known danger. In that kind of situation, it would be wise to contact an attorney about an emergency order that will allow you to keep the kids away from your ex-spouse until they either test negative for the coronavirus or recover.

If you have an emergency custody issue related to the COVID-19 outbreak, find out about your legal options as soon as possible.

How Laura Dale & Associates, Is Responding

On March 12, 2020, we received a memorandum from the Head of the Harris County Family Law Courts regarding the Covid-19 virus and the protocol that has been adopted by the District Family Law Courts. The District courts in Harris County have continued (postponed) almost all cases and hearings until further notice. We expect that the courts of counties contiguous to Harris County (Ft. Bend, Montgomery, Galveston, Brazoria, Chambers, Liberty) will follow suit with similar protocols.

We are checking with all courts frequently to ascertain the status of our clients’ cases. Once we learn something definitive regarding a case, that client will be informed. All attorneys and parties are affected by this development. We are reassessing the situation daily and doing the best that we can to keep our clients informed in a timely manner, and we appreciate their patience as we all struggle through this together.