In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic which is sweeping the globe and hitting closer to home in Texas, Harris County issued a mandatory order on March 24, 2020 to “Stay Home. Work Safe.” This new mandate has many Texans wondering what, if any, impact this COVID-19 related order will have on child custody and visitation orders.
What are essential activities under the Stay Home, Work Safe Harris County order?
The “Stay Home, Work Safe” order specifically requires Harris County residents to stay at home unless they are involved in what the county is calling, “essential activities.” It is important to note that the county has more specific regulations that are fully addressed on Harris County’s Website ReadyHarris.org
What Stay Home, Work Safe Means For Child Custody and Visitation Orders
Local and state entities are providing guidance to residents regarding child custody and visitation orders.
Specifically on a local level, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s March 24, 2020 “Stay Home, Work Safe” section 1(d) states, “Nothing in this Order affects orders or agreements regarding child-related visitation or custody arrangements.” Judge Hidalgo’s Order makes it clear that parents are supposed to continue to follow custody orders regarding visitation, even while the stay at home order is in effect for Harris County.
On the state level, the Texas Supreme Court also addressed custody arrangements and visitation orders. In its Seventh Emergency Order Regarding the Covid-19 State of Disaster signed on March 24, 2020, the Court ordered that, “Possession of and access to a child 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.”
According to the language found in both Harris County and State of Texas mandates as of March 24, 2020, child custody agreements and orders regarding child-related visitation should still be honored. That said, it is crucial to stay tuned in to local and state authorities for any forthcoming changes.