New Orders from the Texas Supreme Court and Denton County District Judges
I have been receiving many calls from clients and families about what the effect Coronavirus has on their Parenting Time/Possession Orders.
We got an answer about the Spring Break Question, but now what about weekend and Thursday night (typical in Standard Possession Orders) possession periods? The Supreme Court of Texas has issued an Order that is in effect from March 24 through May 8, 2020, stating that, notwithstanding the Coronavirus, parents must still abide by and comply with the Possession Order in effect in their case. Our Denton County District Courts have also issued an Order setting out and clarifying what does and does not constitute an essential need for a hearing.
The Basic Answer from our Courts is that Possession Orders Stay in Place During this time.
This can become a more challenging question when one parent lives in the home of or has regular access to an elderly person or a person with other underlying health risks.
1. The Ability to Compromise Will be a Gift to Your Children. If that is the situation, parents should work together during this time to reach an agreement on the best way to manage this situation.
2. Expanded Facetime or Zoom Calls. One idea is based on the fact that kids love screens, especially if someone on it is a familiar face: If someone in the family is so at risk that the exchange and possession periods cannot happen safely, the parent who has the child should OFFER to do a Zoom call (which is free for limited use and here is a video tutorial on how to take advantage of Zoom) or Facetime for the parent who doesn’t have the child to see and talk to their child every day, even on those days when they would not have possession time with them.
3. Week-On/Week-Off. Some clients are agreeing to do one week with one parent and one with the other, with exchanges only once a week to minimize the contact by reducing the number of exchanges.
4. Make-up Time Agreements. If parents can agree, in writing, to give the parent, whose possession periods are in question, video and telephone contact and extra “make-up time” at a date certain in the future that should keep people out of Court taking up the Court’s time for an “essential” need hearing.
One law school professor reiterated some of these suggestions in a recent newscast. In fact, in his jurisdiction, this law school professor told the newscaster who was interviewing him that some parents are even moving back in together during this period so that their children are not subjected to exchanges between them.
While these are suggestions, the best advice is for you not to do anything without the advice and approval of your attorney so that you do not make an agreement that will be problematic in the future.
Our Courts have limited availability now, but if parents do not cooperate during this period, when the Courts do return to full capacity, we can expect the judges to be very impatient with parents who were unwilling to work together during this challenging time. One suggestion would be for parents who cannot agree to either contact their attorneys and let them help them work out an agreement or contact their Parent Facilitator or Parent Coordinator, if one was designated in their Decree. There are plenty of professionals ready to assist to avoid further expense and stress on parents, families and especially on the children who no doubt can hear things said and sense the tension that will be between parents who are not able to work together during this time. Remember, this is a short-term problem, especially if we all work together.
And also remember, the Collaborative Law/Divorce Process was practically made for this kind of crisis and challenge.
We, who are trained and experienced in handling cases through this interest-based/goal-based process (rather than adversarial as is the Court/litigation process) stand ready and available to do Zoom meetings and help any of you get your solutions and agreements reached quickly and without need of hearings in Court. Just give us a call at 940-383-2674 and let us help.