The abrupt rise of measures enacted to curtail the number of COVID-19 infections has caught many parents off guard. Social distancing, shuttered bars and restaurants, and mandatory school closures have taken many of us, parents especially, into uncharted waters. Parents who share possession of their children have been left wondering how the coronavirus will impact their possession schedules and whether they should limit exchanges of children to curtail the spread of the virus.
On March 17, 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an Order which clarifies that unless the parties agree otherwise, parties should continue to follow their normal possession and access schedule and that even though schools are being closed longer for Spring Break. In its Order, the Supreme Court of Texas wrote:
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.
Please be aware that this rule does NOT affect parents’ ability to alter their possession order where the court has permitted them to do so. The Supreme Court of Texas included in its Order: “Nothing herein prevents parties from altering a possession schedule by agreement if allowed by their court order(s), or courts from modifying their orders.
Parties should pay particular attention to any changes the child’s school may make to the academic calendar. The Supreme Court of Texas’ new Order is set to expire on May 8, 2020 unless extended. You can find a copy of the Order referenced in this post here: https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1446106/209043.pdf.