17 Nov Custody, Christmas, and Covid-19
How does Covid-19 affect custody orders durig the holiday season?
By: Mariana Posadas
Today, there are more active cases of COVID-19 in Texas than when the virus first arrived in the United States. The 2020 global pandemic has changed the way we live, forever. Students around the country are attending school virtually. With holidays around the corner, parents are left wondering whether they are obligated to follow their court-ordered custody holiday visitation schedule.
What Are Joint Managing Conservators?
Typically, Texas law says that parents should usually be named Joint Managing Conservators. A joint conservatorship order means both parents share decision making about the child. Such decisions include schooling, religious training, and medical decisions. In most joint conservatorship orders, one parent will have the exclusive right to decide where the child lives. This parent is called the “custodial parent.” The other parent with whom the child does not live with, is called the “non-custodial parent.”
What’s a Possession Order?
A possession order says when each parent has the right to visitation with the child. Joint Managing Conservators often share possession and access of the child through a Standard Possession Order. A Standard Possession Order states that parents will rotate holidays with the child every other year. Under this order, the non-custodial parent will have rights to the child during the holidays in even-numbered years. The non-custodial parent possession and access begins the day that the child is dismissed from school for Christmas vacation, and will continue until noon on the 28th of December. After that, the custodial parent has rights to the child until the child returns to school after the Christmas break.
In odd-numbered years, the custodial parent has rights to the child during the holidays. The custodial parent’s possession begins when the child is dismissed from school for Christmas vacation and will continue until noon on the 28th of December. After that, the non-custodial parent has rights to the child until the day before the child returns to school after the Christmas break.
Can You Ignore a Possession Order?
Traveling during these trying times may be dangerous, and therefore parents across the State may be planning on ignoring their possession and access order. However, Courts in Texas have held that parents should follow their visitation schedule based on their original school schedule, regardless if the children are online learning, and regardless of the global pandemic. In other words, shelter in place orders and social distancing does not supersede custody orders. Therefore, parents should follow their custody arrangement, as failure to do so may result in contempt of court and sanctions. However, the Standard Possession Order says that the parents may have possession of the child whenever they both agree. With the danger of COVID-19 lingering, many parents may agree to overlook the possession and access order, and agree to an alternative and safer holiday schedule.
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