Even in the best of circumstances, child custody agreements can be a source of conflict, so it’s easy to understand how child custody during The Coronavirus has been a nightmare for many parents. When shelter in place orders are in effect, it can be difficult to uphold your existing custody agreement safely — especially if one parent’s job doesn’t allow them to stay home.
So how do custody agreements work during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with family court being drastically reduced in the name of social distancing? Get our take on child custody during the coronavirus pandemic, and learn what your options may be if your custody agreement is getting dicey.
Texas child custody agreements are still in effect during the coronavirus pandemic
Child custody orders are not affected by partial family court closures or the fact that shelter in place orders are in effect. This means that visitation and conservatorship roles are still intact during the COVID-19 pandemic, and exchanging custody with your ex at the mandated times is considered an essential activity.
Additionally, school closures past Spring Break do not alter established conservatorship arrangements. As of now, the original school schedule still informs your custody and visitation schedules.
As such, deciding to violate your custody agreement — even in the name of health and safety — still counts as violating a court order, and the other conservator can file a motion to enforce that order should they choose to do so. This also means that child support payments are still due as scheduled (more on that later) even though the physical child support offices are closed.
That said, many separated parents may find it difficult to follow all orders related to their shared custody agreement in Texas. Between lost wages, canceled school, and orders to limit contact/exposure, there are a lot of mitigating factors.
Texas child custody tips for COVID-19
Obviously, this is a stressful time for everyone, and it’s important to know and explore all your options before you resort to breaking court orders and putting your family in jeopardy.
1. Talk to the other parent (and be flexible)
One of the biggest child custody mistakes you can make is fighting with the other conservator and interfering with your child’s life. No parent wants to go without seeing their child, but in some cases, a bit of interpersonal compromise can go a long way.
If one of you works in a high-contact profession such as health care or police work, it may be safest for the children to stay with the other conservator until things ease up. The law may be on your side if you choose to act on your scheduled visitation, but it’s important to put your family’s health and safety first — even if you and the other parent were never married and you are following child custody laws in Texas for unmarried parents.
Wondering how being a father may affect your custody? Check out our guide to Child Custody Laws for Fathers for more information.
2. Look into online mediation
If you and the other conservator are open to a temporary modification but still want some formal guidelines in place, reach out to a child custody lawyer about setting up a temporary modification agreement.
You and the other conservator can work with your respective attorneys to mediate a temporary arrangement which you can then have signed and filed.Best of all, this can be done almost entirely online.
3. Know that digital help is still available
Just because the courts are operating at a reduced capacity does not mean that one parent can simply defy conservatorship arrangements without consequence. You and your lawyer can still file motions to enforce visitation using E-File Texas, ensuring that the courts stay involved when necessary. Some of these court actions are considered “essential” and will still be heard almost immediately.
4. Be prepared for adjustments in child support
Between the drastic effects on our economy and our lifestyles, it is inevitable that many established agreements may need to be reassessed — especially if a job loss or business closure has impacted your ability to pay full child support. While parents will need to uphold their financial obligations, it is possible to arrange a child support modification in Texas that reflects changes in circumstances such as layoffs, loss of income, and/or loss of net-worth/assets.
Thiessen Law Firm is open and here to help
Child custody during the coronavirus pandemic presents many challenges, but the good news is that you don’t have to face them alone. The Houston child custody lawyers at Thiessen Law Firm are here to help you explore your options and keep your case moving forward even while the courts are partially closed.
Don’t let your ex or anyone else use this crisis to abuse your agreement or keep you from your children. If you need help modifying or enforcing your custody agreement, contact Taly Thiessen at the Thiessen Law Firm today to set up a remote consultation.
More Helpful Resources from Thiessen Law Firm:
- How to Avoid Cheap Divorce Lawyers in Texas
- Can I Get Visitation Rights Without Paying Child Support?
- Does Child Support Come Out of Workers’ Comp?
- How to Cancel Child Support in Texas
- Fathers’ Rights in Texas