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covid-19 and child custody access: young boy in surgical mask

COVID-19 And Child Custody Access

covid-19 and child custody access: young boy in surgical mask

 

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has created fear and uncertainty throughout the United States and the world. This pandemic has affected almost every part of daily life, including co-parenting with ex-spouses.

School closures, social isolation, travel restrictions, and business closures can all affect your ability to co-parent as you would in normal times.

It’s essential for all divorced parents to keep the well-being of the children at the top of mind during this unprecedented time. This means prioritizing the child’s physical and emotional health. Unfortunately, these two things can seem to be at odds during this pandemic when traveling is restricted, but being close to both parents is ideal.

When possible, parents should try to have open and empathetic discussions with their exes in regards to caring for the children during this pandemic. When all parties can agree to help each other as necessary, it can help everyone get through this crisis–especially the children.

However, working through it together is not always possible, especially if your ex-spouse is determined to fight against you. In these cases, it’s important to know the legal standards so that you can avoid any further problems.

COVID-19 And Child Custody Access

Will COVID-19 Affect Custody Access

There is not a single law that covers what all ex-spouses should do regarding custody in emergency situations. Instead, it’s incumbent upon parents to check their divorce decrees and child custody orders to see what these documents say about emergencies. Unfortunately, most agreements do not list anything about what to do during a global pandemic. However, there might be other relevant wording that can help you determine your next steps.

Read through all court orders regarding your case and ask yourself these questions:

  • Who gets the children during school closures?
  • What constitutes an emergency situation according to these documents?
  • What do these orders say I am supposed to do in an emergency?

Once you have considered the legal restrictions within your court orders, you must then consider the changes to your state and local laws. For example, some jurisdictions have ruled that parents should operate as if schools were open. Furthermore, many areas have passed shelter-in-place decrees that restrict the movements of residents.

While many of these decrees allow people to move in order to care for family members, it’s always a good idea to check the text of the bill to be sure.

In general, parents should not expect that COVID-19 and the resulting changes in society will legally stop them from seeing their children. However, some situations may arise in which the health and safety of the child supersede the parent’s rights.

Changing Child Custody Location Temporarily

Some parents may want to travel with their kids during this time, especially with travel so inexpensive. Furthermore, when parents live far away from one another, children may be required to take planes or other public transportation in order to visit their parents. Due to the current and ever-changing situation with the virus, this may be dangerous to the health of the child.

If your child’s other parent wants to travel with your child during this time, you may need judicial intervention in order to stop it. This may be especially important if the child would travel to or through a COVID-19 hotspot. Although many courts have suspended in-person and non-essential hearings, there may be legal actions you can take to stop the travel.

For example, judges may be willing to meet via teleconference. Be sure to contact a family law attorney in your jurisdiction if you find yourself in this situation.

Child Custody Access Modification Due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed many lives. As such, some families may require changes to their child custody agreements. Exes should discuss what they are willing to do in any of the following situations:

  • A child or parent gets the virus
  • Schools close
  • A parent is unable to work

These can be difficult conversations, even if you have a relatively good co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the  Association of Family and Conciliation Courts came together to release a set of seven guidelines for co-parents during the COVID-19 crisis. The organizations advise parents to be:

  • Healthy: first and foremost, follow the CDC, state, and local guidelines for health and safety.
  • Mindful: Be aware but calm about the situation, and talk to children about the virus in age-appropriate ways
  • Compliant: follow court orders and custody agreements whenever possible
  • Creative: when parents can’t follow orders precisely, they should work together to find solutions
  • Transparent: be honest with ex-spouses about your situation, particularly when it comes to possible COVID-19 exposure
  • Generous: make reasonable accommodations for the other parent when possible, including allowing makeup time for missed visits
  • Understanding: the pandemic could cause economic hardship for parents paying and receiving child support payments. It’s vital to be understanding of changing circumstances during this time.

Family law can be complicated at the best of times. In times like this, it can leave parents feeling at a loss for what to do. If you have consulted all the legal resources you have and you still have questions, be sure to contact a local family law attorney for help.

The post COVID-19 And Child Custody Access appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Texas Court Grants Grandparents Visitation and Access to Grandchildren

Texas Court Grants Grandparents Visitation and Access to Grandchildren

Originally published by Francesca Blackard.

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Under Texas family law, a court may grant grandparents reasonable possession and access to a grandchild if three conditions are met.  First, at least one of the child’s parents, whether adoptive or biological, must have parental rights to the child.  Second, the grandparent must overcome the presumption the child’s parent is acting in the child’s best interest by showing that denying the grandparent possession or access would result in significant impairment to the child’s health or well-being.  Finally, the grandparent must be the parent of the child’s parent, and that parent must have been incarcerated during the past three months, have been found incompetent, be deceased, or not have possession or access to the child.  TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 153.433.

In a recent case, a father challenged an order allowing the maternal grandparents possession and access to his children.  The parents and children stayed with the grandparents while they looked for a house when they moved to Texas from California.  The grandparents supported the family so the parents could save up to buy the home.  After the parents bought a home nearby, the children regularly visited their grandparents, sometimes overnight.  The grandparents would take the children to school and attend school functions.  The grandmother testified she felt she had assumed the role of parent.

The grandmother testified both parents were alcoholics.  The mother’s friend testified the parents had a tense and unhealthy relationship.  There was testimony that the mother sent the children to stay with the grandparents when the situation at home grew tense.  The father’s friend testified the father left the children with the grandparents when he went to bars and nudist colonies.  He also testified the father told him he often argued with the mother, but did not state the arguments ever turned physical.

 

The mother sadly died in 2018.  The children stayed with their grandmother for several days and the oldest child told the grandmother they were going to live with their other grandparents in California.

The grandparents promptly filed suit seeking sole managing conservatorship.  Although they obtained a temporary restraining order to keep the father from moving the children from the county/ the children went to live with their paternal grandparents in California when it expired.

The grandparents amended their petition to seek possession and access to the children under the grandparent access statute.  Following a trial, the court found the grandparents had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that denying them possession or access would significantly impair the health or well-being of the children.  The court granted the grandparents possession for one weekend during the fall and spring semester and seven days during the summer.  The grandparents were also allowed phone, Skype, or FaceTime access.  They were also allowed to send cards, letters, and gifts.

The father appealed.  In this case, the only element at issue was whether the grandparents had overcome the presumption the father was acting in the children’s best interest.  The father argued the grandparents had not submitted evidence of any impairment to the children from denial of access.  He testified the children were doing very well and had not shown any need for psychological treatment or counseling.  They lived with his parents, where the oldest had her own room and the boys shared a room.  They were physically safe and doing well psychologically.

The grandparents argued the father had not provided counseling for the children and planned to deny all access to the grandparents.  The appeals court noted that the leading cases overturning orders granting grandparent access involved evidence that the parent would not deny the grandparent all access to the child.  The father testified he would not allow any access or possession of the children unless ordered to do so by the court.

The appeals court found no evidence denying the grandparents access would significantly impair the physical health of the children, but there was sufficient evidence it would significantly impair their emotional well-being.  The grandmother testified denying them access would not be in the children’s best interest.  The mother’s friend and the father’s friend each testified they did not think the father was acting in the children’s best interest.  The grandmother testified the children had lost their mother, grandmother, and home, and had moved to live with grandparents they had rarely seen.  There was evidence regarding the father’s heavy drinking and potential alcoholism.

The father testified that the children did not exhibit any emotional turmoil.  He said they did not ask about their grandparents.  He testified they were healthy and doing well.

The appeals court found the trial court could have reasonably disbelieved the father’s evidence and found the grandparents overcame the parental presumption by a preponderance of the evidence.  The appeals court affirmed the order.

Although it can be difficult for grandparents to get access and possession of their grandchildren, it is possible under certain circumstances.  This case may have turned on the father’s intent to deny all access to the grandparents.  If you are seeking or fighting grandparents’ rights, a knowledgeable Texas custody attorney can advise you and fight for your rights.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up a meeting to talk about your case.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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