Do COVID Guidelines Change My Visitation Schedule?

The Coronavirus has created difficulties for everyone, but, divorced or separated parents face special challenges.

There are important things you should know if you are trying to co-parent children during the current stay-at-home orders. 

Dallas, Denton, Collin, and Rockwall counties have, among other counties, announced shelter-in-place rules due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) concerns. Even though your children can’t currently attend school, the possession schedule as contained in your  custody orders must still be followed as if the children were, in fact, still in school. 

Co-parenting and Visitation Schedules are Still in Effect

The shelter-in-place rules do not change your normal visitation or co-parenting schedule. This holds true even if you are concerned the other parent isn’t as careful about sheltering the children from the illness as you are.

The courts have been very clear:

  • Don’t withhold your children from the other parent because of COVID-19 safety measures
  • Follow your original schedule until you hear otherwise from the courts themselves
  • Even with the shelter-in-place rules, parents are allowed to and must travel in order to meet the other parent for an exchange of the children.  

What About This Summer? 

There might be questions that come up over summer possession, as people sometimes put their children on planes, and some individuals and children cross state lines for summer        possession.  If the current shelter-in-place orders are extended into June,  an individual or child crossing state lines could possibly face   a two week quarantine.—what do you do in those instances? The courts have not come out with any specific orders yet, but as the summer gets closer it may become necessary that such orders be issued.  Before you unilaterally make a decision to not abide by the summer schedule set forth in your custody order, you should contact your attorney or visit the below websites that relate to your county for any updated order relating to summer possession.    

Do What is Best for the Children’s Emotional Wellbeing

During this pandemic, parents need to keep in mind their children’s emotional well-being.  Making the possession schedule and the exchanges more difficult for the other parent may be very hard, emotionally on a child. Disagreements over possession schedules during this COVID-19 crisis can make things even tougher for parents that already struggle to get along.   This in turn can negatively affect your child’s emotional well-being if he or she senses anger and or tension between the parents. Many of my clients who have called and talked to me about possession issues relating to COVID-19 have been able to work it out.

Sometimes, it takes nothing more than a letter or an e-mail  to the other parent with a clear explanation of the courts current expectations regarding compliance with possession schedules.

and requesting that the other parent comply. Such a letter or an e-mail can and has resulted in parents willingly going back to the original possession schedule. In truth,  most parents, given a gentle nudge are  willing  to comply with orders even if they  are feeling anxious about the current health crisis.

Regardless of what’s going on during this crisis, remember that you cannot unilaterally make changes to your possession schedule. This does not mean, however that changes can’t be made.  You continue to have the ability to reach out to the other parent to discuss the situation and try to reach agreements regarding  possible changes the possession schedule.  You can find the Shelter-in-Place Orders for each county using these links.

Denton County Shelter-In-Place Order
Dallas County Shelter-In-Place Order
Collin County Shelter-In-Place Order
Rockwall County Shelter-In-Place Order

You are able to monitor local websites for news of closures and other announcements.

For Collin County Court updates view www.collincountytc.gove/district_courts/Documents

For Denton County Court updates view

www.dentoncounty.gov/Departments/District-Courts

For Dallas County Court updates view 

www.dallascounty.org/covid10/closures.php

For Rockwall County Court updates view www.Rockwallcountytexas.com/AlertCenter.aspx

Want to Read More?