Updated: Mar 18
UPDATED March 17, 2020:
Like most states, the State of Texas is scrambling to stop the spread of the Coronavirus or COVID-19. Schools across the state have extended spring break in an effort to promote social distancing and President Trump has even banned travel to Europe.
As a parent, you’re right to be concerned about coronavirus and want to do everything possible to safeguard your kids — and yourself — from this fast-spreading health risk. But as a divorced co-parent, you also have the added pressure of needing to coordinate COVID-19 precautionary measures with your ex.
Could COVID-19 disrupt your custody plans? What about international custody? Are you now permitted by court order to keep your children until they return to school?
The answer to those questions is: it depends. It depends on a variety of factors.
First things first.... what does your order say? Does your order provide specific dates? Does your order include the standard language that you must return the child “at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation?" A copy of the most recent final order in your divorce or suit affecting the parent-child relationship can assist you in addressing your concerns. But even then, you'll have to dig deeper, because Texas law is not clear on who has the right to possession during an outbreak such as this.
The non-custodial parent could argue that if spring break has been extended, then technically the children should stay with him/her until 6:00 PM on the day before school resumes. However, some judges may not like the thought of you wielding a technicality over the other parent. A custodial parent might argue that the school's calendar specifically sets out the dates that were allotted for spring break and that the children should return as planned.
What if there is long-distance or international travel involved? One could argue that having a child travel in these conditions is not in the child's best interest considering the health risk associated with travel at this time.
Unfortunately, there is not a clear right or wrong answer.
For parents who cannot agree, a Judge will ultimately be left to make that decision. Parents are encouraged to work together to find a solution that works for their families before getting a court involved. If you are unsure of how your child’s situation will affect your possession and access schedule or if you and your ex-spouse can not agree, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney with a copy of the letter or e-mail from the school and your most recent final order.
But in the meantime, here are some tips to help you handle disagreements with extended spring break possession:
Communicate - If possible, talk to the other parent about your concerns and make a plan that works for your family. Consider the risks and the children. What is in your child's best interest?
Be flexible. Consider giving the other parent "make-up time."
Treat your former spouse with respect.
Stay informed and up-to-date with what's going on with COVID-19.
Don't disrupt your children's relationship with their other parent. When possible utilize electronic communications so that the other parent can talk/see your children.
If you have questions or concerns regarding your possession order contact the DeRouen Law Firm at (832) 408-0289.
Effective March 13, 2020 - May 8, 2020
The Texas Supreme Court has ORDERED that the original spring break schedules will determine who is entitled to possession/access for standard possession orders during the COVID-19 extended breaks. The order is effective March 13 - May 8, 2020. Please read the following: