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What Have the Courts Done in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Lindsey Obenhaus | April 14, 2020

Many are asking themselves, what have the courts done in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic? Dallas Family Law attorney, Lindsey Obenhaus advises on how the courts are handling current family law cases. It is important you check with the Supreme Court orders, but also with your local District courts and your individual courtroom.

Should you need more information on Court Closures and Court Orders, please visit the State Bar of Texas website.

Our team of lawyers and staff is here for you to provide practical and sound advice during these challenging times. Contact us today to discuss your family law matter.

Transcript

Even if your case settles amicably outside of Court, every case must be filed and processed in a district or family law court. Currently, the Texas Supreme Court has enacted seven unprecedented emergency orders affecting all courts in the state of Texas, effective March 13, 2020, and lasting through May 8, 2020, unless otherwise extended by the Court. Pursuant to these orders, individual courts are given the authority to modify or suspend deadlines and procedures, allow remote appearances to proceedings (such as by video or phone), consider testimony/evidence offered electronically, conduct proceedings away from its usual location in the county, and taking any other reasonable action to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, the highest court ordered that courts must not conduct “non-essential” proceedings in person contrary to local, state, or national directive, whichever is most restrictive, regarding maximum group size (currently, the statewide restriction is 10 people). Jury trials are also suspended during this time.

Specific to family law cases, the Supreme Court ordered that for purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered schedule, the originally published school calendar shall control in all instances. Further, parties must continue to follow their court-ordered possession schedules (unless they agree otherwise) because the Court has held that possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order issued by any governmental entity.

Specific counties and Judges have been proactive about creating a unified family law response to this crisis. To see how your county is affected, the State Bar of Texas is maintaining a database of all resources and updates on Texas Court Closures and Orders relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the Texas Children’s Commission has compiled a helpful database of all resources relating to CPS cases on their website. Most counties have issued orders limiting in-person courtroom settings to only “Essential Family Court Matters,” including protective orders, family violence, writs and habeas corpus, CPS matters, and other matters that may be designated by the court at its discretion. Some courts are allowing “non-essential” matters to be heard by submission or a virtual hearing (teleconference or videoconference). It is always best to check with you specific court to determine their unique policies for handling cases during this unprecedented time.

 

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