Texas Visitation and Possession During COVID-19 or Shelter at Home Orders

Texas Visitation and Possession During COVID-19 or Shelter at Home Orders

Watch the video above to learn more about visitation and possession during COVID-19.

“Hi, I’m Chris Schmiedeke of Divorce Simplified. We help clients simplify the divorce process. I know there’s been a lot of confusion lately about the possession orders in Texas because of the COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place orders. People are not sure what to do, when they’re supposed to have possession of their kids, when they’re supposed to return them. It’s causing a lot of confusion so I wanted to put together a video to explain what’s going on. I want to start with the top level of the court system in Texas which is the Supreme Court of Texas. They issued an order, a ruling on possession in Texas. This applies to any suit affecting the parent-child relationship. That is a divorce decree, an order with any kind of visitation in it basically. That could be a pending divorce as well. It doesn’t mean it has to be a prior order, but it does include prior orders or pending cases.

Under those suits affecting the parent-child relationship, the Supreme Court has said, “For 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 COVID-19 pandemic.” What does that mean? Basically what they’re saying is you have to pretend that the kids are in school. You don’t get to say, “Oh, well they’re on a permanent vacation for the rest of the year and therefore since they’re on vacation, I get to keep possession of the kids.” We’re pretending that the kids are in school. You’re going to go by the school calendar for wherever your kids are in school, and that’s going to determine the possession and access schedule per your court order.

Let’s get a little more specific than Texas. Collin County and Dallas County have both adopted very similar or almost identical rules regarding possession and access of your children. Again, this applies in every suit affecting the parent-child relationship that’s filed in Dallas or Collin County, Texas. The original published school schedule shall control in all instances. It’s the same thing we heard from the Supreme Court level of Texas. “A person currently in possession of the child who is not entitled to possession of the child under the original school schedule, shall immediately return the child to the person entitled to possession under that schedule.” Then they go on to give three examples. I’m going to read those examples verbatim.

The first example, Example A is what happened when this all hit right around the time of spring break and it says, “If a person had possession of the child for spring break, but the school has canceled classes for the week following spring break, that person is not entitled to possession of the child. The person must return the child as if school had returned following spring break vacation as set out in the original published school schedule.” That meant at the end of spring break, everything’s back to normal. You go back to school even though technically they weren’t going back to school. Spring break is over obviously. The next big event that we would have probably that would be affected by this would be the end of school. We’re all praying that this thing isn’t lasting until the kids get out of school in May, but it very well could be. In that event, summer’s going to start the day after school ends under the calendar of the school where the kids go to school.

Of course this brings up the age-old question, “Well, my kid’s not old enough to be in school.” Well, it’s the school district if they were in school. That’s Example A. Example B. “If a person has the right to possession of the child on Thursdays during the regular school term, that person is still entitled to that possession while the school is closed until the scheduled regular school term ends based upon that school’s schedule.” Again, it’s business as usual. We’re just pretending that the kids are in school. Right now kids are in school. All Thursday possessions take place as normal. Example C. “In the event closures of school continue through summer, the parties shall follow the original published school schedule for the purposes of selecting and exercising their extended summer possession.”

Again, your orders just stay in place as they were. Anything that has to do with staying home is irrelevant at this point. Follow the order as if the kids were in school, period. That’s Dallas and Collin County. Both of those counties have said that a failure to abide by your court orders can result in contempt, which could be jail time, fines, etc., so you have to follow your orders. Denton County has not gotten that specific. They are just following the general guidelines set up by the Supreme Court of the State of Texas, so there’s not a whole lot to go through there. If I get any updates, I’ll follow up with you but until then, I will talk to you later.”

If you have further questions about visitation and possession during COVID-19, please feel free to contact us at 214-989-7375 or online.