The coronavirus pandemic is now sweeping Texas communities as of March 2020, and as a result has left schools grappling with sudden closures to help flatten the curve of the virus and keep it from spreading.  Texas parents are now struggling to make sense of these unexpected closures and how it relates to their child custody agreements.

Common Concerns of Parents Involved in a Custody Agreement During a Pandemic-Related School Closure

As if dealing with the emotional and financial toll of the coronavirus is not overwhelming on its own, parents with court custody orders have the added burden of figuring out how a pandemic-related school closure impacts their day to day family life.

Some of the more common concerns of parents involved in a custody agreement during these school closures can include:

  • Which dates count for spring break- the original or extended dates?
  • What happens if school never goes back into session- is summer considered to start now?
  • What happens if schools end the academic year early due to coronavirus?
  • What if the other parent will not return my child due to coronavirus concerns?

Texas Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Pandemic-Related School Closures

On March 17, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court ordered that for the purposes of child custody orders, summer does not begin early, even if schools decide to close for the remainder of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This order is particularly significant for non-custodial parents who have a Standard Possession Order or Expanded Standard Possession Order because these kinds of orders typically provide for weekday and weeknight visitation during the regular school year only. Under the Texas Supreme Court’s Order, the school district’s original school calendar and/or schedule is the only one to be observed when it comes to determining when summer actually begins.

A Word of Warning for Parents

The Texas Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that a parent should not attempt to use the coronavirus pandemic as grounds to deny the other parent access to a child. If a parent chooses to do so, it is possible that he or she risks an enforcement action, contempt findings, or even jail time.

Another reason to avoid using the coronavirus pandemic to deny the other parent scheduled time with their child is that Texas courts also have the power to modify custody to that parent if there is a history of the original custodial parent denying the other parent visitation.

If your child’s other parent is refusing to return your child following spring break, or is denying you visitation, contact a knowledgeable attorney at Connolly & Shireman today to discuss the remedies which may be available to you.

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