Texas family lawyers and parents are facing a great deal of confusion and mayhem regarding custody, enforcement, and modification suits in Texas in relation to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court of Texas has recently issued an order that specifically addresses some of the issues many parents across the state have been facing. The Texas Supreme Court has stated that “For purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the existing trial court order shall control in all instances.” The Texas Supreme Court further states that “Possession of, and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement issued by a governmental entity that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID-19 pandemic.”
What does this mean for you? Essentially, both parents must abide by the current possession and access schedules and cannot keep the other parent from exercising their rights to possession of and access to the child because of any stay at home order in place by local governments. So how can you protect your kids or yourself if your current custody order needs to be modified due to COVID? You need to go to court.
Family Courts in San Antonio and Texas are Prioritizing Child Custody Cases
Not every issue can go to court right now. Cases are being prioritized by our courts. Many cases, such as evictions, are barred in Texas. However, legal cases affecting child safety are being given higher priority. If your case cannot go to court in Texas now, you may still want to be ready when the courts reopen completely. In San Antonio, child custody lawyers and divorce lawyers are expecting a huge backlog of cases. Some reasons you may need to modify your custody order by going to court now could be:
- One parent is denying the other parent possession of or access to the child per a prior court order because of any shelter-in-place orders from local governments.
- One parent is more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the other parent is not complying with current safeguards and placing the child and/or the other parent at risk.
- Travel poses a risk for your child or the responsible adult.
- COVID restrictions have made the current order unworkable, for example, if flights are no longer available.
- One parent is just flat-out disregarding the orders in place.
Child Custody and Visitation in San Antonio – Common Questions
The Bexar County Civil District Courts have issued specific orders regarding future hearings. They are adapting to the current environment and have begun to develop plans to allow telephonic and video conferencing to allow hearings to continue. The following are some common questions we have been hearing regarding child custody in San Antonio, Texas, and the surrounding areas:
Can I file anything or have my case heard?
Yes! Absolutely. There is nothing stopping anyone from e-filing cases. The Bexar County Civil District Courts are working on getting hearings heard via video effective by April 6, 2020, and are willing to hear all types of hearings dealing with family law issues such as temporary orders, modifications, enforcements, and child custody disputes.
Are law firms even working at this time?
Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC sure is! We are more than ready to help our clients and potential clients in any way we can. Our firm understands that just because we are currently undergoing drastic changes, issues regarding family law do not stop.
How soon can I speak to an attorney?
As soon as is convenient for you. We are here to take your calls and emails. We recommend meeting over the phone or video when possible, but we are also willing to meet in person under certain circumstances as well. Our San Antonio family law firm has taken precautions to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus within our office.
What arrangements do I need to make to appear in family court in San Antonio?
San Antonio family lawyers are primarily using Zoom, which is preferred by the Bexar County courts. You should download the free app, here, and try it out. Using Zoom, child custody lawyers in San Antonio will be able to share exhibits and other legal documents, meet for consultations, cross-examine witnesses, and take testimony. Attorneys, including HGC, are also using DocuSign to allow documents to be signed online and transmitting information by email. You’ll need an email account and internet access for all of this. Finally, you will need a quiet place to video-conference or for video appearances in court.
Can I wear pajamas to court since I’m appearing by video?
We still think you should dress up for court. For one thing, we can see you via video. For another, you want to feel like things are serious so you don’t slip up by acting too casual. Wearing courtroom attire will help you stay in the right mindset. Also, nobody wants to accidentally see your chones.
Our San Antonio Child Custody Lawyers Are Standing By
Some attorneys and law firms in San Antonio and all around Texas have reduced their workloads. However, many lawyers, especially child custody and family lawyers, have adapted to COVID. Some clients would prefer meetings in person, which many lawyers, including HGC, will allow. However, for those family law clients who are willing to meet remotely, the changes being made for COVID may be more convenient. So don’t hesitate to reach out to a child custody attorney for a consultation. Kids are important so we’re still working.
Marco Cepeda is the Lead Family Law Attorney for Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC. In addition to being an award-winning family lawyer, Marco is an Adjunct Professor of Legal Studies at Our Lady of the Lake University. He is a husband and father who understands the challenges of marriage and parenthood and has dedicated himself to helping clients navigate the changing family dynamics of our modern society. To set up a consultation with Marco, or any of our award-winning attorneys, call (210) 222-9132 today.