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The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, arrived in Texas during Spring Break leaving uncertainty for many parents. The Texas Standard Possession order and many custom possession orders provide parents the right to possession of the child either every year or in alternating years for Spring Break. Many noncustodial parents had their children for Spring Break this year. As a result, school districts announcing “extended” Spring Breaks led to confusion about whether or not a child was going to return to the custodial parents as previously scheduled. Adding to the confusion were the shelter-in-place orders issued at the same time on various state and local levels.

Luckily, the Texas Supreme Court recognized the concern among parents with shared custody and issued an emergency order to address those concerns. Effective from March 13, 2020, through May 8, 2020 (unless extended), the court’s order says that possession and access are not affected by an epidemic or pandemic—including COVID-19. In other words, parents are still required to follow the court-ordered possession schedule that they would otherwise follow with dates corresponding to the originally printed school district calendar. 

Child visitation is an essential activity

If you do not follow court-ordered visitation, you are taking a risk. Any parent denied their right to visitation during COVID-19  can file a motion to enforce. The parent may ask the judge for:

  • Contempt (which can lead to fines and possible jail time.)
  • Additional parenting time to make up for lost time with the children.
  • Reimbursement of travel expenses for the denied visitation.
  • Any other relief available under the law

If you are being denied your right to see your child, contact a family law attorney.  

Visitation During COVID-19: Good Intentions vs Court Orders

Unfortunately, refusing to exchange your child during the COVID-19 pandemic is not a decision you can make alone. There are several reasons that you may not agree with sending your child to the other parent. For example:

  • A COVID-19 diagnosis in the home.
  • The other parent is not practicing social distancing.
  • Either home has an especially vulnerable person living in the home.
  • Your child’s parent or someone living with them may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Your child has been exposed to COVID-19.

If any of these are a concern, the best way to keep you, your child and other loved ones safe is to talk with the other parent about your concerns. 

“Parents and other court-ordered conservators are always free to make alternate arrangements for possession, as long as they all agree to it,” said Carlson Law Firm Family Law Attorney Savannah Stroud. “If both parents (or conservators) can agree that there should not be a transfer between homes during the shelter-in-place, then that’s OK. However, if there is not a mutual agreement, then you must follow your original possession orders.”

Stroud also recommends that parents get the agreement in writing; practice liberal use of video conferencing and telephone calls for the parent not in possession; work out some make-up periods of possession for the parent who will not be seeing the child during this time period. 

“Even a text between the two parties may suffice as evidence should problems arise at some point,” Stroud added.

Stroud also recommends that parents get the agreement in writing. 

Child Support Modifications During COVID-19

School is canceled through at least May 4 and Texas businesses are closed for at least that same time. Many people are concerned about how they’re going to pay their bills. In addition to worrying about visitation during COVID-19, this has led to an increase in noncustodial parents seeking to modify child support payments for the time being. In fact, the Texas Attorney General is experiencing higher than normal call volume

If a shelter-in-place order has led to a reduction in your income, contact a Child Support Lawyer as soon as possible. The qualified family law attorneys at The Carlson Law Firm can help you get your child support orders modified for the duration that you are bringing in less money. However, we caution that a request to decrease child support cannot be made retroactive prior to the filing of that Petition and service on the opposing party. Accordingly, we urge you to contact us today to start the process as soon as possible. 

We’re here to help

Child custody and child support modification are difficult and exhausting. They can lead to messy situations because of the love both parents have for their children. We are living in uncertain times, but there is one thing you can count on, The Carlson Law Firm’s Family Law Attorneys are here to help. If your right to visitation during COVID-19 is being denied, we are available to meet by virtual appointment or over the phone. Our Child Custody lawyers can help you get the ball rolling if you are being denied visitation or need a child support modification. 

Contact a qualified Child Custody Lawyer today to schedule a free virtual consultation.

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