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Divorce and Child Custody During COVID-19

Divorce & Child Conservatorship During COVID-19

Supporting Texas Families During the Coronavirus Health Crisis

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic can be felt virtually everywhere and in all aspects of normal life. Most people are required to isolate themselves at home. Further, businesses and nonessential government services have scaled-back or ceased operations. This includes public courts, except for emergency cases, per a standing order issued by the Texas Supreme Court.

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we remain dedicated to advising and supporting Texas families during this time of crisis. Our firm is working hard to address your legal questions and concerns, including those concerning child conservatorship during COVID-19.

Call our firm at (281) 810-9760 to learn more about how we can help you.

Conservatorship Compliance During COIVD-19

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, on March 13, 2020, Governor Gregg Abbott declared a state of emergency for all counties in Texas, stating that COVID-19 presented an “imminent threat of disaster.” As a result, the State of Texas has ordered everyone to stay home as a measure for halting the spread of the virus, unless you are engaging in an essential activity.

Consequently, legal actions—including several family law matters—have been stayed and continued until May, except for emergency cases. For many families who have already been through divorce or separation, this raises questions concerning child conservatorship arrangements.

Since Governor Abbott declared a state of emergency for all Texas counties until May, separated or divorced parents may be wondering how this impacts their rights and responsibilities per the court’s custody orders.

Child conservatorship—also known as “child custody” in other jurisdictions—is a significant legal issue that often comes up in family law cases in Texas. When the parents of a minor child get divorced or separate, they must determine how to distribute the time they spend with their child now that they no longer live together.

In Texas family law, child conservatorship can be divided into different categories depending on the extent of a party’s rights to spend time with their children:

  • Sole managing conservators: If the court appoints a parent as sole managing conservator, they will live together with their child, sharing a primary residence. This arrangement is conceptually similar to “sole custody.”
  • Joint managing conservators: In cases where the child alternates living between parents, the parents are considered to be joint managing conservators. This concept is similar to what is known as “shared” or “joint” custody in other states.
  • Possessory conservators: When the court designates a parent as sole managing conservator, the other parents is known as a “possessory conservator.” Generally, possessory conservators have limited rights and responsibilities with regard to their child, relative to the managing conservator. This is conceptually similar to “visitation” in other states.

Although the above categories broadly cover child conservatorship in general, the details of the court’s custody orders typically differ from case to case. In particular, specific details regarding parenting schedules—such as the location and time of custody exchanges for joint managing conservators—depend heavily on the circumstances of a case.

Among the emergency orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic include an order concerning child custody, which states “[f]or 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 control in all instances. Possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID19 pandemic.”

Furthermore, the order provides that “Nothing herein prevents parties from altering a possession schedule by agreement if allowed by their court order(s), or courts from modifying their orders.”

In summary, the following applies to parents who share child custody in Texas:

  • Children may travel to effectuate the terms of your custody orders
  • The parties court-ordered schedule for custody remains in effect—school closures do not affect the schedule
  • The parties may agree to modify the terms of a custody schedule

You Can Count on the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we deeply appreciate the hardships you and your family may be experiencing as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak and the strict public health policies implemented to counteract it. That is why we continue serving residents and their families in Dallas by providing legal advice and guidance for family law matters, including issues concerning child conservatorship under Texas law. To ensure you get the legal counsel you need—while promoting and preserving public health during this crisis—we offer consultations via telephone or video.

Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, or call us at (281) 810-9760 to schedule an initial consultation today.

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