Family Law Advisor: Coronavirus (COVID-19) update
Meeting your priorities at an uncertain time.
In this unprecedented time, choosing among priorities can be challenging as we respond to our families, our community, and our nation. At GoransonBain Ausley, the health and well-being of our clients and our team are paramount. As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, we will follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and the State of Texas to ensure that we keep families—yours and ours—safe. We know, however, that family law problems can still occur and assure you that we are committed to providing the same level of compassionate and comprehensive representation as always.
Our lawyers and staff continue to work as a team so that your needs are met in the most expeditious, safe, and personalized manner possible. If you need any of our services in the days ahead, we are fully operational through remote technology, including videoconferencing.
This resource page offers FAQ’s, insights and updates on a range of family law questions or issues you may face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
GoransonBain Ausley’s Team is here for you.
GoransonBain Ausley is known for providing ethical representation–protecting children’s interests, securing assets for the future, and achieving efficient and advantageous resolutions of family law matters. Our team of lawyers and staff is here for you to provide practical and sound advice during these challenging times.
How can we help?
Our priority is to maintain services to our clients and ensure the well being of our community. Below is a list of FAQ’s regarding our response and commitment to you during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Can I have a consultation with my lawyer remotely?
Yes, GoransonBain Ausley has a comprehensive remote working capability and all of our lawyers and paralegals are equipped to work securely from home. We have multiple video conferencing options. Please contact your attorney for the platform that works best for you.
Will my lawyer be available to answer questions and work on my case?
Yes, GoransonBain is fully operational through secure technology allowing every lawyer and their paralegals to work on you family law matters. You can email, call, or video conference with your lawyer during this time.
How are court hearings and appointments affected?
The Texas courts are adjusting regular operations and most non-emergency hearings are being rescheduled. This is a dynamic and changing situation, but as leaders in the family law community, we are following the situation closely and are constantly being updated on what the courts are doing during this time. At this time, most courts in Texas only allow in-person hearings for emergency or essential matters. A handful of judges across the state have launched virtual dockets and are conducting hearings via video conference. We anticipate that in the coming weeks, we will have many more jurisdictions adopting this method. Please check back with us, we will be updating this page regularly. Consult with your attorney to assess what how these changes may affect your case.
This is a great time to explore alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation and arbitration.
Can I consult with a lawyer about a new family law or divorce matter?
Yes, we have office staff working at all three offices to ensure that no business interruption occurs. For information about a family law or divorce matter please call our office or complete the Request a Consultation Form.
Can I begin a Divorce or Modification proceeding during this period of time?
Yes. Courts in Texas are accepting new petitions and court filings electronically. You may benefit from waiting to initiate the case. On the other hand, by not filing quickly, you may jeopardize certain requested relief because of a Court’s perceived lack of exigency on your part. When you meet with your attorney for the initial consultation, he or she will help you determine the best course of action for your case.
How is my court-ordered possession schedule affected?
On March 24, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a seventh emergency order stating that existing court orders in child-possession cases shall control “in all instances.” As a result, parents should continue to follow their court order unless there is legitimate reason to deviate. You should strongly consider consulting with an experienced family law attorney before proceeding with any unilateral deviations.
On March 26, Governor Abbott announced an executive order requiring a mandatory self-quarantine for air travelers arriving to Texas from airports in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Orleans. Travelers are required to complete a form through the Department of Public Safety. Travelers must self-quarantine for 14 days, or the duration of the stay in Texas, whichever is shorter.
On March 29, Governor Abbott expanded the quarantine orders to include travelers from California and Washington State and the cities of Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago. He further ordered that those traveling by car from Louisiana are now also be subject to this order.
If the other parent is living in one of the areas listed above, parents are urged to discuss alternative ways for the children to maintain their relationships with their out-of-state parent, such as phone calls, texts messaging, and video conferencing.
What will happen to our children if the other parent or I test positive for coronavirus/COVID-19?
First, follow the CDC and your local health authority’s protocol for people that have tested positive. Be sure to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan. You should keep the other parent informed of the situation. Transparency is key.
Discuss an emergency plan with the other parent as soon as possible. Be proactive about this now as it will save you stress and anxiety later. Both parents should be on the same page about how to tell the children and how the quarantined parent will communicate with the children.
What happens if my children contract coronavirus/COVID-19?
Reference the provisions in your court order concerning each parent’s rights to make medical decisions. Per the Supreme Court of Texas’s seventh emergency his order will control in all instances.
Make a plan for where the child should stay if quarantined. It may be that if you and the other parent have more than one child, the plan will be that all of the healthy children will stay with one parent, while the other parent cares for the sick child.
If you or the other parent are in a high-risk category, both parents might agree to enlist the help of a close family member or friend to help care for the healthy children.
Perhaps you or the other parent are living with a high-risk category family member, you may have to agree to make caregiving arrangements to prevent exposure. The bottom line is that these are unprecedented time and both parents will have to have a degree of flexibility when approaching these complex issues.
What if I am laid off, can I stop or reduce my child support payments?
Even through this difficult period, the terms of your court order remain the same. If you are court-ordered to pay child support, you are still under the obligation to pay the amount ordered. It is not advisable to stop making child support payments. To change the amount of child support paid to the other parent, a petition to modify child support must be filed with the court. The amount owed to the other parent will not be officially changed until a judge signs a new order.
The person receiving child support should be notified as soon as possible. Texas Family Code § 105.007 requires that you give notice to the person receiving child support, the Court, and the Office of the Attorney General if there is a change in employment.
Consult with your attorney to discuss the option of modifying your child support.
I am receiving child support payments from the other parent, should I expect the payments to be delayed?
The Office of the Attorney General has announced that it does not expect a delay at this time. The State Disbursement Unit is continuing to process child support payments for timely distribution to child support recipients.
What if I want to settle a temporary issue or the entire case through mediation or arbitration?
Many mediators are now fully equipped to conduct both mediations and arbitrations remotely via video conference. Video conference mediations are conducted privately, and your personal information will be protected using HIPAA compliant software. Because courthouses are closed for all non-essential matters, you may decide to use mediation or arbitration to resolve important issues quickly and efficiently.
Will I be able to finalize my case if I have an agreement with the other party?
Yes, if there is an agreement, we are able to submit agreed orders to the court and finalize your case.