COVID-19 Restrictions and Frequently Asked Questions regarding Parenting Time

Plano attorney, Ryan Bauerle shares an overview of court orders pertaining to parenting time, as well as concerns about what the court will hear during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Welcome to the “Family Law Advisor” video podcast. My name is Ryan Bauerle and I’m a family law attorney here at GoransonBain Ausley. Our purpose with these video podcasts is to have a candid conversation about family law and divorce during these very uncertain times. We want to share information, updates, and resources to anyone who has questions. Today’s topic is on the COVID-19 restrictions in parenting time.

The short answer is that it won’t or that it should. The Supreme Court of Texas weighed in on this and said specifically that the existing trial court orders are supposed to control in all circumstances, although of course parents are certainly able to agree to deviate from it, but absent agreement, otherwise they need to stick with what the order says. The link to this order will be available on our website. While it’s clear specifically as to what the Supreme Court of Texas says, what’s less clear is how different people interpret these orders of these agreements.

So while the Supreme Court of Texas has said that this is an emergency, while this is a national emergency, this is a state of local emergency, that’s not the same type of emergency in the eyes of what your judge might think that might justify getting some sort of TRO or other ex parte relief. So just because maybe the other parent is deemed an essential employee who still goes to work every day, comes home and sees his child and the other parent might be concerned about possible exposure to the virus, that is not sufficient evidence to go get any sort of temporary restraining order. What a court will expect to see is some sort of true imminent danger to the child and that the court feels it needs to act right away. Courts right now are only hearing emergencies anyway, so these types of things should be very specific and there needs to be some sort of specific danger to the child specifically in regards to the corona confines that we’re talking about.

I assume the situation would be rare and almost unheard of, what you’re more likely to see is just parents not taking the situation very seriously. So one parent, you know, not necessarily listening to the stay at home orders, maybe not wearing the appropriate face coverings like they’re supposed to, that kind of thing, not enough to get any sort of restriction on parenting time. But in the unlikely event one parent were knowingly and intentionally exposing their child to exposure, then the court might consider writing some sort of relief in that very limited circumstance.

Again, this is pretty rare, but presumably, you could contemplate circumstances where this might occur. For example, Texas has restricted travel from the state of Louisiana right now. So if the child is in Louisiana or headed to Louisiana, that might just make visitation impossible. Granted alternate arrangements should still be made, there are other ways to get from Texas or to Texas, so the court will still expect parents to do what they need to do to make sure the order is followed. Sometimes, however, it’s just impossible. And those very limited circumstances make up time for a parent that missed out should be considered.

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