By: Leslie Barrows
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COVID-19 Challenges with Kids, Possession Schedules, and School Schedules
Kids, Possession Schedules, School Schedules, and COVID-19 Challenges
September is here and there are yellow busses on the road, some more full than others as divorced parents face common challenges with COVID-19 impacting their kids and possession schedules. Some of our children are back at school for in-person learning while others are at home doing virtual school online. And while this might work at first, anything can happen to screw it all up. If that is your concern or reality, the Barrows Firm divorce and family law attorneys are here to help you figure out a solution that works in the short term because it is going to be a while before the backlogged courts have in-person hearings and trials on possession schedules, school schedules, and visitation swaps.
Attorney Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark are helping North Texas families in Tarrant and Denton Counties who call the Barrows Firm for help with COVID-19 challenges when work, school, and possession schedules conflict. Yes, you may need to have an enforcement or modification hearing or trial but mediation could be a much better course of action in the meantime.
Our recent article has more useful information – Back to School Schedules: The 2021 Academic Year and Virtual School
The Purpose and Intent of a Possession Schedule
When parents get a divorce in Texas, it is common to use a standard possession schedule to determine when the children will be with which parent. The term possession and access are used in the Texas Family Code regarding issues of visitation when the non-primary parent has quality parenting time with their children. A possession schedule includes references to holidays and school calendars. Pick up and drop off times are set around school schedules.
The possession schedule is intended to be relied upon by the parents as the final word on where and with whom the child should be at any given point in time. Wrapping a possession schedule around school calendars makes sense for parents and children. However, if you and the other parent have an agreement to do something other than what is stated in your possession schedule, that is allowable. If you and the co-parent can get along well enough to trade time on your own, it is okay to adjust, as necessary.
Interesting Options: Texas Virtual School Network
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School Schedules During COVID-19 for Virtual/Online or In-Person Learning
Most Independent School Districts in Texas let parents know of deadlines to decide whether their child will attend school virtually in an online environment from home, or in-person at school. So far, parents have made their choices and kids are adjusting to their new school year despite COVID-19 challenges and fears of another wave of spreading Coronavirus among students. When schools shut down and extended Spring Break earlier this year, the concern was the number of students who could contract COVID-19 and transmit it to families, including elderly family members and those with already compromised immune systems.
Most of the ISDs like Carroll ISD, where Leslie Barrows is an active parent, have a school schedule for the virtual students that nearly mirrors the in-person instruction at school. So, at the same time, both sets of students have similar learning schedules. If this applies to your family, your possession schedule and visitation exchange should not be affected but for the location of the visitation exchange.
Should You Follow the Same Possession Schedule if Things Change or Schedules Conflict?
When people call the Barrows Firm and talk to attorneys Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark the questions about custody, possession, and school schedules are unique to COVID-19 because none of the attorneys, judges, or school administrators can predict exactly what is going to happen with the Coronavirus and potential spread among students. People are divided over their thoughts about risks and safety, making this a bigger challenge for everyone involved.
Can you adjust your schedules as parents to accommodate your children? For some parents, the answer is, “I don’t know.” Some parents are working full time from home and others are outside the home at an office or in a job where they travel for work. If you can work with the other parent on adjusting possession time because school schedules are a challenge during COVID-19, you may earn good brownie points that come in handy later when you might need a favor.
Compromise Now? Court Hearings and Jury Trials May Not Be Available Until January
Before the COVID-19 outbreak and shutdowns, if your former spouse refused to comply with Court orders and possession schedules, you could file an enforcement action, or modification if needed, and get into Court to ask for emergency relief and to set a hearing or trial. Now that we are in the third quarter of 2020, that previous course of action is no longer an option.
The majority of Texas family courts have postponed in-person hearings in family law cases until next year unless the matter is a true emergency and it is essential to the best interest of a child to see a judge right away. If you are being denied possession time and your ex is being difficult with visitation exchanges, now might be the time to take good notes and hold onto your hat until Coronavirus passes and you can get into Court to address the situation. So, if you can find a way to compromise now, do that. If you can use mediation to settle post-decree kid and school issues, try it. A jury trial on contested issues may become available once the dust settles and court calendars adjust to something closer to normal.