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How will coronavirus school closures affect who gets the kids?

by | Mar 20, 2020 | Child Custody |

There are a lot of questions regarding coronavirus right now. Some of them, like when life will get back to normal, requires a crystal ball to be able to answer. But each state’s officials are beginning to get their collective heads around legal issues that are impacted by factors like social distancing and school closures.

That’s especially important to parents operating under divorce decrees covering who gets the children during spring break and once school is back in session, if it ever is, this spring. If you read it literally, the parent who has the kids during spring break keeps them until when school is in session. Depending on your school district and what it decides, that could be a very long time. But, in a decision that makes sense, that is not the case.

The Texas Supreme Court issued a special order earlier this week to uphold divorce decrees as they were intended: As if we were still operating under a normal and functioning school calendar.

The order explains that “the originally published school schedule will control” parenting time issues, specifically noting, “Possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It’s important to have that clarity: a lot of parents were disputing what extended breaks meant, leading to many calls to family lawyers and courts. With everything uncertain right now, it’s understandable that there were questions, but the order means that the time and energy that would have been spent on litigating how long spring break is can be spent on other things.

Of course, this is a time for common sense and caution. If you’re a parent who has tested for positive for coronavirus or you’re needing to self-isolate, you clearly need to do what’s best for the kids and make sure they’re in the place where they can best stay safe and healthy. Communication between parents is key right now, more than ever.

If you’re missing out on parenting time, and you’d like it to be made up later (perhaps in the summer, where there’s possibly more flexibility with a schedule), you could log the time now and work it out when we’re past this time of very stressful social distancing and worrying about the health of loved ones.

While we’re all hopeful that we’re doing enough to flatten the curve and get back to normal soon, we’re unclear about what’s going to happen and what things are going to look like once we’re through this. This is a time to be patient and not petty and do everything you can to put your children and everyone’s safety first. As hard as it might be to do, it’s so important right now.