A global pandemic is affecting the health of hundreds of thousands across the globe and is simultaneously disrupting some of our daily activities and legal processes. During this time of uncertainty, those involved in family law and child custody matters are rightfully wondering where they currently stand.

Texas Supreme Court Coronavirus Rulings Related to Family Law

The Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order affecting family law and child custody matters on March 24, 2020, shortly after Governor Abbott declared a state of disaster in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  This Order said:

“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.”

Previously, on March 17, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued another  emergency order regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster which ordered that, “For purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the original published school schedule shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This Texas Supreme Court Order clarifies the ambiguity that was created as school districts began closing schools, sometimes with reference to an “extended spring break.” However, the order issued by the court makes it clear that the original Texas school calendar spring break dates are the correct days to observe.

These orders were signed by the Texas Supreme Court justices to address the questions being raised by parents regarding family law and child custody matters during the pandemic.

Harris County Custody Matters During Pandemic-Related School Closings

One of the reasons parents have so many questions regarding the school closures has to do with the verbiage frequently used in custody agreements. For example, it is somewhat common language in a custody agreement for a parent to return a child to the other parent at the conclusion of spring break by 6 p.m. the day before school resumes. But what happens if school does not resume from spring break because of a pandemic-related closure?  The Texas Supreme Court makes clear that the original school calendar controls.

Bottom Line

As of March 25, 2020, pandemic-related school closures should not affect court-ordered possession schedules.

If you have questions about what effect, if any, the COVID-19 pandemic may have on your child custody or visitation order, contact a knowledgeable attorney at Connolly & Shireman today.

Leave a Reply