The arrival of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, in the United States is changing the way many of us do daily things, including attending to family law court matters. With the pandemic beginning to show signs of community spread, our local government is taking necessary precautions to protect residents. Despite this move to protect residents’ physical health, many families involved in family law cases are wondering about the emotional toll their health could take if family law court cases are postponed.

Harris County Family District Courts’ Policies and Procedures during COVID-19

Harris County Hearing Essential Court Matters

On April 1, 2020, the Harris County Family District Courts issued Policies and Procedures during COVID-19, which allows the courts to continue to hear “essential court matters.” Some of the official “essential court matters” recognized by this order of the Harris County Family Law Courts included but were not limited to:

  • Habeas corpus
  • Writs of attachment for children

Both of these remedies were included in the restrictive court order because they involve recovering children wrongfully held by either the other parent or a third party.

As per the April 1, 2020 Policies and Procedures, Harris County Family District Courts may deem as essential cases “of a true emergency involving an imminent threat to the health or safety of a child or where there is an imminent risk to a party’s property.”

Remote Hearings, Video Conferences, and Other Options

Considering the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created, Harris County Family Courts are now currently in the process of transitioning to remote hearings via video conference and by telephone.  Other matters are now being heard by submission – the judge makes a decision based on the parties’ written motions and responses, plus any attachments.  Agreements can be proved up by affidavit or unsworn declaration.

The Family Court Division has also signed a Standing Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Order which applies to most family law suits. Requests for ex parte extraordinary relief not covered by the Standing Order may be submitted for consideration by the Court if supported by an affidavit.

Common Concerns an Attorney May Be Able to Help Address During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Harris County courts and government are adjusting daily as necessary to comply with local orders regarding the coronavirus pandemic. And while many Houstonians may be spending more time at home than usual to comply with those orders, many parents still have questions about family law cases such as:

  • Is my family law case postponed due to coronavirus?
  • If my case gets postponed, when will it be heard?
  • How do I handle the custody agreement during this pandemic crisis?
  • Will coronavirus impact my child custody order?
  • Will COVID-19 impact my visitation rights?

Although the physical Harris County courthouses may be closed, the courts are not closed and neither is Connolly & Shireman, LLP. If you have a family law matter that requires court intervention or you are concerned about the impact of coronavirus on those matters, please contact one of our family law attorneys at Connolly & Shireman today to discuss your legal options.

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