How Does COVID-19 Affect My Child Visitation?

How Does COVID-19 Affect My Child Visitation?

One of the most common questions we receive is how the Coronavirus affects visitation and child custody. Parents are rightfully concerned about their child’s safety during these unprecedented times, as much of Texas and the United States remains under stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. Many parents do not understand their obligations, including whether or not to allow visitation or return the child to the custodial parent.

For divorced parents who’d long ago settled custody issues, COVID-19 has brought troubling and confusing new questions about child visitation and whether it’s safe for children to travel back and forth between homes. In cases where one parent works in the medical field, as an emergency responder, or is an essential worker, the other parent may wonder whether the child is at risk during visits.

How closely do I need to follow my child visitation orders during COVID-19?

The Texas Supreme Court has made it clear that parents must follow court orders regarding child custody during the pandemic. Even with travel restrictions and stay home orders in place, executive orders from the Texas Supreme Court allows you and your children to be able to travel from home to home while still remaining in compliance with any movement restrictive orders.

Obviously, most parents’ primary concern during this time is the safety of their children. No one can fault a parent for being concerned about safety right now. However, just because there is an ongoing international pandemic does not mean you can deny another parent their time with your children. COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity for co-parents to work together to communicate your concerns before disagreements arise disrupting parenting time. While you may be very concerned if the other parent works in healthcare, a grocery store, or lives in a coronavirus hotspot, your concern is valid but may be insufficient to justify custody changes.

On March 13, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued the Second Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster, clarifying possession schedules as related to school closures, making it clear that school closures do not impact child custody orders. Subsequently, on March 24, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued the Seventh Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster, clarifying how the governmental stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order affects child custody orders in that it does not change the non-custodial parent’s parenting time nor does it give the non-custodial parent the right to not return the child at the end of their parenting time. Basically, unless your orders say something different or have been changed by a court since the coronavirus arose, you still need to do what your visitation orders say.

Austin Child Custody Lawyer

Ilana Tanner is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist practicing in Austin, Texas. With over 10 years of family law experience, Ilana has represented hundreds of clients in divorce, custody, CPS, modification, and related cases. She can advise you on whether or not it makes sense to file an Application for Temporary Restraining Order or to ask the judge to sign an order allowing you to keep a child in quarantine. Call (512) 814-7013 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with an experienced Austin divorce attorney.

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