CORONAVIRUS AND CUSTODY ORDERS: HOW TO HANDLE VISITATION DURING THIS PANDEMIC
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
The Supreme Court of Texas has issued an Emergency Order making it very clear that parents are to continue to follow their custody orders despite locally issued shelter-in-place orders.
Almost immediately, family lawyers are being bombarded with calls from worried parents exchanging their children with a co-parent who does not take the Coronavirus seriously, or is not taking the proper precautions. This pandemic has presented a lot of legal issues and a lot of Texas family lawyers and courts are finding themselves in uncharted territory. However, a good family lawyer will be able to advise you if you should take legal action.
Other parents are concerned about being slapped with a citation by local police for violating shelter-in-place orders by picking up their children. Short answer: they cannot, but more on that later.
We family lawyers and judges are finding ourselves having to deal with unprecedented legal issues. However, here are some helpful family law tips to follow.
FIND COMMON GROUND
A good family law attorney will always advise to try and find common ground with your ex, even though it might seem impossible. Most custody orders or agreements are in place because parents have a hard time communicating with each other. However, for the safety of your children, attempt to talk it out. It is the best option because it is the least legally consequential and most cost effective.
Most courts have issued their own emergency standing orders, Cameron County included, and Courts are beginning to take up legal matters via Zoom. However, most family courts are only taking up emergency matters not custody disputes. Family law judges will always do what's in the best interest of the children and if they see two parents fighting over trivial matters, they will not be pleased once this is over.
DISOBEYING COURT ORDERS IS A BIG UNKNOWN
As a parent, you may find yourself in agony if your ex is not following CDC guidelines for COVID-19. Should you keep your child away from their parent or not? It is always best to know your judge before you decide to take legal action. However, most of the time not following custody orders is a big no-no and could result in losing custody or time with your child. Parents have to be able to prove that their child is being affected either emotionally or physically. It remains to be seen if this Coronavirus pandemic is enough to overcome enforcement proceedings. Even though our current situation is dangerous, parents are taking a legal risk in facing sanctions from the Court. Again, finding common ground would be the best way to avoid any legal problems, however, a good family lawyer will be able to advise you of your options.
SHELTER-IN-PLACE ORDERS DO NOT REPLACE CUSTODY ORDERS
The Texas Supreme Court was very clear that a parent's custody order "shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement issued by a governmental entity that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID-19 pandemic."
This means that if you get stopped by our local police department or sheriff's office, you should have a copy your custody order, and Texas Supreme Court order handy. Local law enforcement should not be citing parents who are simply picking up or dropping off their children. The Texas Supreme Court has pronounced it. To see the official order click here.
An experienced family law attorney will be able to properly advise you regarding your court ordered visitation schedule and any issues you may be having during this stressful time. If you have questions or issues regarding your custody orders call us at Sosa Law via phone at 956-621-1277 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.