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Does COVID-19 Affect Child Custody Orders?


On March 22, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a shelter-in-home order similar to stay-at-home orders other major cities like Los Angeles and New York City are enforcing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shelter-in-place order aims to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Dallas County by limiting how frequently residents interact and shutting down non-essential businesses.

Parents in child custody arrangements may be concerned that the shelter-in-place order will change how often they see their child. Understanding how the shelter-in-place order affects your child custody arrangement and what impact the coronavirus pandemic may have on your child custody agreement can help you navigate this trying time successfully.

Does the Shelter-in-Place Order Change Child Custody Arrangements?

In short, no, the shelter-in-place order won't change how your child custody arrangement works. Although Dallas ISD is closed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Texas Supreme Court, child custody arrangements should continue as if school closing due to COVID-19 did not exist. Custody Orders must be followed as otherwise written. This means parties should proceed with custody exchanges and rights as if the COVID-19 containment measures did not exist.

However, that doesn't mean you should assume the COVID-19 pandemic won't affect your child custody arrangement at all. While the shelter-in-place order doesn't affect the legality of your child custody arrangement, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place order may change how you handle child custody in your everyday life:

  • Childcare facilities may not be widely available anymore. Judge Jenkins is asking parents who work from home or are non-essential workers to avoid using childcare facilities so they can be used reliably by essential workers. The inability to use a childcare facility for your child may change how you approach child custody.
  • Job losses may affect child custody. A recrod 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment this last week, and job losses will only escalate as the crisis continues. If you or your ex lose their job, you may want to reconsider your child custody arrangement.
  • Leaving your child with an older caretaker may no longer be an option. If you consistently rely on an older caretaker like a grandmother or grandfather, you may want to reconsider how you approach child custody. Elderly people are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, so it's crucial they remain isolated while the shelter-in-place order is in effect.
  • If you get test positive for the coronavirus, you must self-isolate and notify your ex. Unless you have a partner who also acts as a primary caregiver, your child will probably need to stay with your ex while you recover from the coronavirus.

In summary, although the legality of your child custody arrangement will not change during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may want to restructure how you approach child custody during this period based on how the pandemic may affect other areas of your life.

How Can I Change My Child Custody Arrangement?

If you believe it's in your child's best interest to renegotiate your child custody arrangement with your ex during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • If you and your ex agree that the child custody arrangement should be altered at this time, you can informally alter the arrangement as you see fit.
  • If you and your ex disagree on the child custody order, you'll need to legally renegotiate the order to change it. An established family law attorney can help you renegotiate your child custody order and arrive at a mutually beneficial arrangement with your ex-spouse.

For more information about COVID-19 and how laws are changing with the pandemic, check out our blogs and social media feeds. You can also watch our new videos on immigration-made-easy and divorce-made-easy at our video library.

As of March 26, our firm is set up for videoconferencing and telephonic conferences to help clients handle legal matters remotely while the shelter-in-place order is in effect. To protect our employees and our clients, we are taking all appointments through electronic means only. If you need us, please do not hesitate to give us a call. Our team here at the Mathur Law Offices, P.C. hopes that you are keeping safe during this time of crisis.

Contact us online or via phone at (888) 867-5191 to receive a free 20-minute consultation from our legal team.