Co-Parenting During COVID
Since early March of 2020, the Gilbert Law Office has received many questions from separated parents looking for tips and legal advice about how to manage co-parenting during COVID-19. With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Bexar County, many parents are naturally afraid to exchange their children during these uncertain times for fear that their child may contract COVID-19 while in the other parent’s care. Some parents have even reached out to inquire as to whether parenting orders are still in place during the pandemic. Rest assured, parenting orders are still in place and in full-effect unless specifically stated by the court. However, that does not mean a concerned parent has no remedy.
Parenting orders, while still in place, can be modified. In Texas, if a parent has genuine concerns that the child is more likely to contract COVID-19 while staying or visiting with the other parent, the concerned parent may have grounds for an emergency motion to restrict parenting time. The mere filing of the motion will automatically grant the concerned parent a 14-day injunction barring the other parenting from exercising parenting time. The Court will then set a hearing to determine whether the current parenting orders should indeed be restricted. However, it is important to consult with an attorney before bringing this motion, as the court may penalize the concerned parent, should it deem the motion to be frivolous or brought in bad faith.
A concerned parent should also avoid self-help at all costs, such as refusing to turn over the minor child to the other parent, without a modification or restriction of the existing court order. The other parent who has a court order allowing him or her parenting time on certain days has the right to get a civil assist from local law enforcement. The use of self-help can also cause a concerned parent to be penalized by the Court and could result in the loss of parenting time (or worse).
There are also non-parents, who have had physical, but not legal custody, over the minor child. In many cases they have had custody over the minor child for years, and sometimes with the consent of the actual parents. It is very important for these non-parents (e.g. grandparents, stepparents, relatives etc…) to get a legal determination of custody over the minor child. Otherwise, an actual parent, whom in many cases has not been seen in years, can show up with local law enforcement and take custody of the minor child. Also, a parent who has consented to custody can revoke it at any time, if an order allowing the non-parent custody is not in place.
With so much uncertainty in our world, we all want to protect our loved ones as much as possible. However, it is important to note that there are ways to do that, and you should always seek legal counsel, before restricting another parent’s parenting-time. If the other parent’s rights to visitation or custody have not been restricted by the court, then they have the same right to be with the child as you do. If you’re having difficulties with your child custody and visitation rights, and you’re struggling with co-parenting during COVID-19, call the Gilbert Law Office for help with your case.