The Frequent Regulation: Custody & COVID-19 Columns

The Common Law continues to address your legal issues related to COVID-19. You ask. We will do our best to respond while we are in a period of uncertainty. You can find more questions and quick answers here:

I share custody of my daughter. I am concerned about her safety as I don’t believe her mom is following the correct COVID-19 safety and social distancing protocols. Given the current home stay orders, can I keep my daughter with me for the next few weeks even though our custody ordinance says her mother should have her?

The Texas Supreme Court has ordered that all existing court orders regarding custody and possession continue to be monitored in all cases, including while the stay at home order is being made. The court’s order also stipulated that the originally published school schedule will control custody exchanges even when the school is closed. Put simply, courts in Texas have ruled that COVID-19 and any related state regulations will have no impact on existing custody and property ordinances.

If a parent believes that the child’s safety and well-being are at risk, the parent has the right to request a change in the parent-child relationship. The parent requesting the change would need to demonstrate a material and material change in circumstances and that the newly requested schedule is in the best interests of the child. The security concerns, if legitimate, would be a factor for the court to consider. Any parent who withholds the child from the other parent in violation of a court order can be found in disregard of the court.

I was fired from work because of COVID-19 and cannot pay my child benefit. What can I do?

Child benefit is still owed even if you have been laid off from your job due to COVID-19. A court order is the only thing that can change the terms of your child support obligations. Contact the Texas Attorney General’s office to notify them of the change in employment status and to request a review of your maintenance order. For information about child support, visit the Texas Attorney General’s website ( You may also want to reach out to a lawyer (or legal aid group) to help file documents with the court that wants to change the amount of child benefit ordered by the court.

I am totally confused. Can restaurants and bars be open, or has Governor Abbott just closed them?

Confused about the current status of bars and restaurants? You’re not alone. It is difficult to keep up with all orders and order revisions.

On June 27, 2020, Governor Abbott issued a new ordinance that bars must be closed until noon on June 26. As of June 29, restaurants will have to limit capacity to 50%. A positive point if you like the occasional cocktail for dinner is that the new order allows restaurants to make alcoholic beverages and sell them with dinner.

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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and does not replace it. Consult a licensed attorney for advice on your specific facts and circumstances. You can contact the Central Texas Lawyer Referral Service, a nonprofit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or at

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