As we continue to navigate the new turbulent waters of Coronavirus, more and more of our clients are finding themselves under “Stay at Home, Work Safe” or “Shelter in Place” orders. A common theme of these orders is that we are to stay home unless we are engaged in essential travel or an essential activity.
Is Exchange of Possession an Essential Activity?
Many of our family law clients have checked in with us to find out if they are allowed to leave their home, and travel, to carry out possession exchanges with their child(ren)’s other parent. As more and more jurisdictions are enacting these orders, our Courts are issuing clarifications and Standing Orders (general orders issued that apply to all cases in that jurisdiction) to bring clarity to these situations.
So far, every jurisdiction that we’ve seen issue these Standing Orders, like the new Order issued by our Denton County District Courts that follows, has said that travel for possession exchanges is considered essential.
On March 24, 2020, the Denton County Courts posited in the Denton County District Courts Joint Statement and Temporary Standing Order Regarding Possession and Access During the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Period, “…that ‘Shelter in Place’ or ‘Stay at Home’ Orders, standing alone, do not modify current orders regarding possession and access. Exchanges relating to possession and access to children are considered to be an ‘essential activity.’”
How does the Stay at Home Order change the terms of my Possession Order?
With the Courts are clarifying that travel for possession exchanges are essential, this means that the terms of your possession order, and the duty to effectuate the exchange of possession with your co-parent, are likely not changed by the Stay at Home Orders being issued by our state and local governments. This is true for Denton County, but could vary from county to county, so you should definitely contact one of our Texas family lawyers if you have questions about your specific situation.
How do travel disruptions impact my possession exchange?
Possession exchanges that involve long-distance travel, or travel by public transportation, could be made even more difficult by flight cancellations or other travel difficulties.
The Denton County Courts have not removed the ability for parents to petition the courts to petition the courts for emergency relief should the situation require such action.
We at Coker, Robb & Cannon are working with existing and new clients on a daily basis to make sure they are able to do what’s best for their children and family while remaining compliant with Court orders and the COVID-19-related orders coming out almost daily.
What are other issues that may arise due to the Stay-at-Home Orders?
COVID-19 issues we are aware of so far, in addition to those raised by these new Stay at Home Orders, include
possession questions related to changing school schedules,
child support questions when the paying parent loses their job or is otherwise unable to work, and
questions about what to do when a parent or child has tested POSITIVE for COVID-19 or has reason to believe they have COVID-19, or even have reason to believe to have been exposed to the virus.
Our attorneys are monitoring Court directives, and those issues by local, state and federal authorities, to ensure we are up-to-date with the most current information. Feel free to contact our office to schedule a consultation about these, or any Texas Family Law, questions.
Our attorneys are working and conducting consultations daily throughout this crisis by video and phone.
Call our office at (940) 293-2313 or complete our online request form to talk with one of our Consult Coordinators to schedule a consultation to confidentially discuss the details of your case.