As social distancing and shelter in place rules in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) filter down through the different counties and cities and become part of the norm of our daily existence here are some guidelines for general questions you may have about how this will affect co-parenting, custody and visitation.
Will the shelter in place rules and required social distancing affect my divorce and/or custody case in the Courts?
The short answer is yes. With the current shelter in place rules and required social distancing, the courts in Collin, Denton, Dallas and Rockwall County are rescheduling what are termed as non-essential court matters and essential court matters are being heard remotely through apps such as Zoom meetings.
In the area of family law, an essential court matter is a matter that involves a temporary restraining order/temporary injunction or family violence protective orders.
You are able to monitor local websites for news of closures and other announcements.
For Collin County Court updates view www.collincountytx.gov/district_courts/
For Denton County Court updates view
For Dallas County Court updates view
For Rockwall County Court updates view www.Rockwallcountytexas.com/AlertCenter.aspx
Divorce Options Not Involving Court
If you have a pending divorce action or a pending custody matter, you can still proceed if you choose. Many courts are encouraging those who have pending cases to reach temporary or final resolutions through mediation. Many mediators are continuing to handle mediations remotely through the Zoom meeting app or something similar.
In addition, in a time like this, a Collaborative Divorce might be a great choice. Parties still have the ability to proceed with a Collaborative Divorce with little to no delays. Since parties agree up front to not seek court involvement, the fact that the Courts may not be available does not affect your case. Joint meeting with parties, their attorneys and the professional neutral(s) can be held very effectively through remote meeting apps. In addition, parties can still have their meetings individually with the professional neutrals in the same way a before except that the meetings are held remotely.
Does the Shelter in Place Order issued by the Texas Supreme Court affect your currently possession schedule?
The Texas Supreme Court has made it clear that the shelter in place order does not affect current possession orders. If you have court orders setting out possession of and access to your children, you must continue to comply with the court ordered possession schedule. In addition although most if not all schools have closed, such closures do not operate to modify the school calendar that existed before the Coronavirus emergency. In other words, even though schools are closed you must continue to exchange your children with the other parent as if school were in session.
Possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement issued in connection with the Covid-19 emergency.