How Shelter-in-Place Orders Affect Visitation Rights

Virtual child visitation

Currently, the world is experiencing a crisis, unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes. These unprecedented times have brought a new world of change with them, adding stress and confusion to an already difficult period. A parent’s concern should always be focused on the safety and wellbeing of their children, and the current climate has no doubt exacerbated parents’ protective feelings. Many single parents worry when they will be able to see their children again given the current shelter-in-place order issued by the Texas government.

Can You Visit Your Child? 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered residents to shelter-in-place on March 24, 2020, extending the order to at least May 8, 2020, with the possibility of further extension. The order compels residents to stay home unless they are performing an essential errand such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy or they are essential workers. This order has left parents wondering how their visitation rights and schedules will work given travel restrictions. Texas holds that exchanging a child for visitation purposes is an essential activity and therefore parents will not lose access to their visitation schedule due to the statewide order. Texas further holds the existing trial court order stands during this time period, meaning possession of and access to the child remains the same as decided and stated in visitation schedules before shelter-in-place was ordered.

Violation of Parental Rights 

As previously stated, the statewide order on travel restrictions does not affect a court-ordered visitation schedule. While a parent may be concerned for their child or children, they cannot withhold access because they have no authority to bar the other parent from their visitation rights. Changes to a visitation schedule and rights require a formal modification through the courts, meaning a parent withholding a child is violating the court order and at risk of repercussions for doing so.

What Can You Do?

Many of those who co-parent understand the importance of communication regarding the child or children, and during times of crisis, this importance is heightened. It is in the child’s or children’s best interest that parents work together to ensure normalcy and keep stress at a minimum during these peculiar times. Contacting the authorities may aggravate the situation and create a tense environment for the child. Parents who are unfortunately having their visitation rights violated must seek immediate advice from an experienced Texas child custody lawyer before taking any action to remedy the situation. Communication efforts that show an attempt by the parent to follow the court-ordered schedule may be helpful for future action or modifications, but guidance from a trusted family lawyer is recommended above all else. Violations of visitation rights can understandably be extremely frustrating to both parent and child; however, it is important to remember that the wellbeing of the child is most important. 

Texas Child Custody Lawyers 

Adhering to court orders regarding visitation rights and child custody is crucial in maintaining a stable environment for all parties involved. When a parent’s rights are violated, they lose precious and valuable time with their children that they will not be able to get back. Not only does this scenario distress the child or children involved, but it is also a violation of Texas law and could have severe penalties. If you or a loved one’s visitation rights are being violated due to shelter-in-place orders, please contact us today for more information. 

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