Good day everyone. My name is Tara and I am an HLRS attorney. I’ve been with them for about two years now and I have been practicing law for seven. A majority of my seven years have been in the area of family law and so today I’m very happy to be able to talk with you all and to help answer some of the common questions that I’ve been receiving during this COVID 19 pandemic.
Understandably, parents are feeling concerned about their children’s safety and well being, especially for visitation between the two parents’ homes. But it’s important to remember that every child has two parents and that every child needs both their parents during this time. They need to be around both parts of their families. Some custodial parents have seen this as an opportunity to deny access to their child to the other parent. Some custodial parents do this at fear and some do it out of pure spite against their ex.
However, the Supreme court of Texas did issue an order on March 24th of this year stating specifically that any shelter in place order or any other order restricting movement issued by the government that arises from an epidemic or pandemic explicitly mentioning including the COVID-19 pandemic shall not be affected. So possession and access are not affected like any in a shelter or stay at home or issued by any local government entity. So it’s important to remember as we move forward, because not everything has quite opened up yet that as summer comes, this does include not only weekend possession or weekday possession, whatever your arrangement.
For possession, it’s important to follow the law and make sure that you are handing over your child at the court-ordered designated time. If you’re denying possession and access of your child to the noncustodial parent, that parent could file contempt charges against you. If found guilty and in violation of your court order, and the Supreme court’s order, you can face fines and actual jail time.
The noncustodial parent, the parent being denied access could also file something called a writ of habeas, which means that you are in unlawful possession of the child. And that comes with similar penalties as well, including jail time and fines. So during this time, it’s difficult, but it is best for you and it is best for your children to remain as amicable as possible with each other and to follow the law and allow each parent to have their time with their child.
Another question that I receive quite often is about child support: “I lost my job during the pandemic” or “I’m only making a portion of my income due to the pandemic.” “I’m on unemployment and I only get so much money I can’t afford to pay my payments. Do I still owe child support?”
And the short answer is yes, child support still due and owed. Nothing has changed in that area.
My suggestion to you is if you’ve fallen on tough financial times due to COVID that you attempt to borrow the money, attempt to put it on a credit card or at the very least, make payments toward your obligation, even if they’re not payments in full, whether it be weekly or monthly, pay something just so that you don’t pay anything at all.
And also tomorrow the money or put it on a credit card or get a loan bank or are giving out loans rather more easily than they normally would during these times. The judge in the future, you know, there are affirmative defenses to not paying your child support, including the inability to, but they do expect you to at least try and borrow money to try and put it on a credit card, whether it borrows from a family member or a bank.
And the effort of even paying a portion of your child support during this time will count in your favor. However, it’s impossible to know what judges will do in the future and also if they will show any leniency because of COVID-19. The courts are still closed as of today and they’re expected to reopen, so it remains to be seen.
Finally, my suggestion to the custodial parent, the parent who is owed the child support – if you can file contempt charges and you know the noncustodial parent is suffering and struggling financially during this pandemic, then just don’t file it. Wait. You have the ability but there’s no reason to have to move forward and put a person in that position. Perhaps you two could even talk about a payment plan in the future to try and make up for whatever balance was owed during these few months or six months, whatever it may be.
I suggest to try and be compassionate and empathetic with each other during this difficult time. Don’t just do things because you can and you never know. Maybe one day the other person will return the favors.
So if you are being sued or you would like to or need help filing a lawsuit on one of these topics or another family law topic, you should contact HLRS. They have qualified, pre-screened attorneys for hire, just like me.
You can check out their website at www.hlrs.org where you can shoot them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all I have for you folks this evening. It was my pleasure talking with you. I hope this was helpful and that all of our families remain safe and healthy.