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Custody During Covid-19 and The Return to School

Boyd Family Law Dec. 28, 2021

The year 2020 will go down in history as the year we faced a global health pandemic that brought entire countries to a virtual standstill. In the United States, positive test results continue to increase in many states (including Texas) at the same time that schools are scheduled to resume classes. For divorced parents, the return to school dilemma can place a considerable amount of stress on an already anxiety ridden situation. Fort Worth custody attorney Jon Boyd discusses how custody disputes can be avoided, or at least managed, during Covid-19 return to school debate.

Where Does Texas Stand on School Reopening?

As of July 30, 2020, the Texas Department of State Health Services reports over 400,000 Covid-19 cases and 6,190 deaths. Like many other states, Texas has seen a marked increase in positive test results during the month of July. This increase in cases comes right as school systems across the country are also trying to make plans to reopen schools for the fall. A recent Texas Tribune article, concluded that despite earlier confusion, it appears that schools will be forced to reopen according to the state’s timetable. That conclusion was based in part on a statement released by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that included nonbinding legal guidance saying local public health officials do not have the power to preemptively require all schools in their jurisdictions to remain closed. In addition, state education officials reversed an earlier decision by announcing they will not fund school districts that keep classrooms closed for longer than the state allows even if ordered to do so by a local health mandate. While the legalities of school reopening are subject to change, the debate itself can cause serious friction and discord among divorced parents who are not on the same page regarding a return to school plan.

The Parental Dilemma

Divorced parents face disagreements about minor – and major – issues relating to their child all the time. Most of those disagreements, however, are not as fundamentally crucial to a child’s emotional and physical health as well as educational progress as the decision faced by parents across the U.S. right now. Strong arguments are being made on both sides of the return to school debate. Proponents of a return to in classroom teaching argue that many children did not do well with distance learning, that they need the structure of a classroom. Opponents fear that in classroom instruction will lead to the spread of the virus, not just to their children but to other, more vulnerable, family members as well. What happens if you are on one side of the debate and your child’s other parent is firmly encamped on the other side?

Final Decision-Making Authority

One of the first things to consider is which parent was granted final decision-making authority when the conservatorship (custody in Texas) issue was decided. From a legal standpoint, the parent who has final decision-making authority has the right to make decisions such as this one when the parents cannot agree. If you are not the parent with final decision-making authority, but you feel strongly about your position on the return to school issue, it is vital that you consult with an experienced custody attorney immediately. The Covid-19 return to school debate combines two of the most important issues a court will consider when making decisions related to minor children – the heath of the child and the child’s academic success. Consequently, a court may be willing to consider a request to modify and/or revisit the issue of decision-making authority for this potentially life-altering decision alone.

Contact a Fort Worth Custody Attorney

If you are a divorced parent who is concerned about your child and his/her return to school during the Covid-19 pandemic, contact an experienced Fort Worth custody attorney at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.