Since our last post on Covid-19 and Central Texas Courts, the Supreme Court has issued several Emergency Orders addressing possession and exchanges. Additionally, many of the counties in Central Texas have issued additional orders regarding court proceedings.
The Supreme Court Orders can be found at this link: http://txcourts.gov/media/coronavirus-covid-19-emergency-orders/. Emergency Order No. 2 clarified that school closures did not extend Spring Break possession periods. Emergency Order No. 3 provided that in person hearings should not be conducted at this time which created the need for video hearings discussed more in depth below. Emergency Order No. 7 states that possession exchanges do not cease due to stay at home or shelter in place orders.
One March 27th Travis County extended their court closure for in person hearings to May 11, 2020. Williamson County issued a Second Order on April 1, 2020 cancelling all family law jury trials through June 30th and outlining the procedure to request an electronic hearing in the meantime. Several surrounding counties have cancelled in person hearings through April 30th. Additionally, Governor Abbott clarified his statewide order last Wednesday indicating that it is a stay at home order through April 30th except for essential functions such as going to the grocery store.
Many courts have chosen Zoom as their virtual hearing platform. Zoom hearings require that an email be sent to each participant. There is the option to also require a password in order to enter a hearing in which case that password would be provided to the participants. Also, many hosts have people automatically go to a “waiting room” in Zoom so the participants are not all admitted to the hearing at once. Should a Zoom hearing be scheduled in your case, please consult with your attorney on how to use Zoom and be cautious in using any chat functions if they are enabled.
Williamson County has opted for Microsoft Teams as their platform. Much like Zoom, it is a videoconference software and an email invitation is sent to all participants to join in the hearing.
What does all of this mean? It means that possession should continue per any current court orders including exchanges and the schedule should be based on the originally scheduled school calendar. It also means that the attorney in your case may have to submit a request for a virtual hearing in your case that may or may not be taken up at this time. In many counties, the requests are sent in to the court administrator or court coordinator and a decision is made on whether a hearing needs to be scheduled right now or if it will have to wait until in person hearings can be conducted. Of course, hearings of an emergency nature are still being taken up and heard.
While hearings may not be available in every case, there are other productive tasks that can be completed during this quarantine that can push your case forward or get your case started. Contact an experienced family law attorney today to see what your options are and how we can help. As always, here at Vaught Law Firm we understand and we can help.