Possession Orders and the New School Calendars  by Marianne Howland

Most school districts released their 2020-2021 calendars prior to the current health pandemic.  Because of the pandemic, many schools have revised their school calendars and have pushed back the school start date.

With these developments, many parents are confused about how to proceed with their court-ordered possession schedules.  Should you follow the previously released school schedule?  Should you follow the current, approved school schedule?  Will non-custodial parents be denied some of their Thursday possession due to the later start of the school year?

The short answer is that you should follow the current, approved school schedule.  If the district has delayed the school start date, most have also delayed the school end date.   For example, Dallas Independent School District and Fort Worth Independent School District are districts that have changed their start dates from August 17, 2020 to September 8, 2020.  They have also changed their end dates from May 27, 2021 to June 18, 2021.  Some districts, like Frisco Independent School District, have opted to continue with their previously released school calendar.  Noncustodial parents who reside in districts that have pushed back the start and end dates of the school year will not miss any of their Thursday possession periods.  Noncustodial parents who reside in districts that have pushed back the start date but not the end date will end up with less Thursday possession.

Unfortunately, the Texas Supreme Court Twenty Second Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster has muddied the waters a bit.  Specifically, provision 11 of the order states that “possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement issued by a governmental entity that arises from the pandemic.  The original published school schedule shall also control, and possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from the pandemic.”  This provision, however, does not apply to most schools.  If the school is open, this order does not apply.  Further, there are no shelter-in-place orders or other orders issued by a governmental entity restricting movement currently in place. Therefore, provision 11 does not apply to the current, approved school schedules.  Here are links to the executive orders and the Texas Supreme Court Emergency Orders that the State of Texas is currently under: https://gov.texas.gov/coronavirus-executive-orders and https://www.txcourts.gov/court-coronavirus-information/emergency-orders/

Parents are required to follow the possession schedule outlined in their orders and, according to most possession orders, summer possession ends on the first day of school.  Parents should follow their district’s current approved 2020-2021 school schedule.  If a parent attempts to deviate from the summer possession schedule with a claim that school is already in session, according to the previously released school calendars, that parent is attempting to interfere with the other parent’s possession and is in violation of the possession order.  Please contact us if you need help with this issue or if you have any questions about your possession schedule.

Marianne Howland, divorce attorney- Duffee + Eitzen

About the Author:

Marianne Howland, a partner at Duffee + Eitzen, has been practicing family law for over ten years. She graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law in 2006. Since graduating, she has handled cases ranging the entire spectrum of family law from adoptions, custody battles, pre and post-nuptial agreements, to divorces and post-divorce modifications and enforcement. She is very comfortable in the courtroom litigating her client’s case. However, she encourages clients to settle their issues amicably when possible. Prior to joining Duffee + Eitzen, she had her own law practice for 10 years.
She has two small children and has personally been through a divorce. She brings these experiences to every case and has compassion and knowledge that assists her in her representation of each of her clients. This experience allows her to give her clients the kind of attention and advocacy they deserve.