Do COVID-19 school closures affect visitation? Will Spring Break visitation extend because of the Coronavirus? No says The Supreme Court of Texas.
Spring break visitation is vital for non-custodial parents. It’s over a week of time non-custodial parents get with their children. Spring Break visitation typically extends from Friday at 6 p.m. the day before the Spring Break until the Friday at 6 p.m. before school resumes after the break. In even-numbered years like this one, most non-custodial parents get all of Spring Break under their custody order. Those non-custodial parents living over 100 miles from the other parent typically get every Spring Break.
So when area schools said they were “extending Spring Break” due to the Coronavirus pandemic, this begged the question: does a non-custodial parent’s visitation extend as well, so the children don’t need to be returned until 6 p.m. the day before school resumes…whenever that is. What if the school just said they were closed due to the pandemic and not “extending” Spring Break?
Family law attorneys, myself included, debated this issue among each other, with differing stances being taken.
Well, The Texas Supreme Court took a stance for us and predictably, in my opinion, said no: the original published school calendar controls and closures due to the pandemic don’t affect visitation. Of course, the Supreme Court was careful to note that parents can always agree to give the non-custodial parent more time, and agreement is virtually always permitted by custody orders.
The lesson learned: custody orders are not always clear cut, even for family law specialists. The Spring Break issue underscores how complex these orders can be. Contact a local family law attorney even if you simply want advice on what your order says. You might learn that your order should be modified or that you are not getting what you are due.