Common Questions About COVID-19 and Child Custody

I wanted to discuss a few family law questions that our office has received since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

I wanted to discuss a few family law questions that our office has received since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

The first, and the most common question, that I want to talk about has to do with exchanges of possession for children while school is out of session. With no school, parents want to know where their child is supposed to be and when.

Fortunately, there is a relatively simple answer, with some complexity associated with it, that has been provided by the Supreme Court of the state of Texas.

The Supreme Court has said that we are supposed to be behaving as if school is still in session. So, if your child would have been in school this week, then you're supposed to be exchanging possession just like you would have been if your child was actually in school. That includes normal weekends, holidays, evening visitations - whatever the case may be.

The second question we receive is how are parents supposed to actually exchange possession while shelter-in-place orders are in effect.

The short answer is that you are still expected to exchange possession, even while stay at home orders are in place. In fact the Supreme Court has specifically said that exchanges of possession are considered essential travel, and that parties can be held to be in contempt of an order if they're not complying with that. 

The questions that naturally follow are, what if my child, myself or the other parent has COVID-19 symptoms or been tested positive for COVID-19.

The local courts have provided some clarity on those issues, which boil down to simply using common sense. We are supposed to be taking precautionary measures to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. So if you, the child, or the other parent have related symptoms, then you should work out a reasonable alternative to visitation to prevent the virus from spreading between households. The local courthouse provided some indications, based on other orders, that suggests that video conferencing or teleconferencing more frequently may be a sufficiently reasonable accommodation.

That being said, there are obviously still a lot of questions that deserve answers on these issues. If you have those kinds of questions, or you just have general family law questions surrounding this crisis, I would encourage you to call my office.

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