To our clients, friends and their families…
Let me begin by wishing everyone stays healthy, happy and not overburdened and overwhelmed as we all face the spread of the COVID-19/Coronavirus contagion. All the usual methods of communication with my office remain open and are in use, save only for our ability to freely visit with you in person at the office. Feel free to call, email, or use the contact page of this website.
In the current pandemic situation effecting everyone, legal services, including family law cases, have been classified, in certain types of cases, as being essential, and therefore shall continue to go forward in this “new normal.” This is in regards to in-court proceedings. We can, as has been my habit & practice for more than 20 years, attempt to work towards an amicable resolution acceptable to everyone even while we are all barred from entering the Courthouse.
Essential cases can be loosely described to be those which directly involve the safety of a person, or in some situations a case involving a person’s right to liberty (free movement). In the family law context, such cases include but are not totally limited to protective order cases, CPS cases, enforcements of existing orders, emergency temporary order and temporary restraining order cases (more on this below), and other cases which specifically may be heard at the discretion of the Judge when a critical right or safety of a person is being effected or infringed.
The Supreme Court of Texas has issued several emergency orders, which can be reviewed at the page linked here:
For my clients & visitors, with regard to the orders for possession of, and the exchanges of possession of, a child, I would direct your attention to Emergency Orders #2 & #7, each of which clarify that visitation schedules with children shall continue during this period. Please continue to allow the children to move freely, though safely, between parents. To do otherwise is to risk an enforcement being brought – as stated above, enforcements are continuing to be heard.
Our alternative to in-court proceedings is to use technological means to communicate with one another, directly or in conference modes, in discussions and sometimes in actual mediations. Video-conferencing technology such as the Zoom platform is a fantastic tool for everyone during this period, and I expect its use to be broadened even when the pandemic has passed. We can come together virtually, using our screen devices, and have meaningful exchanges of information and proposals to settle differences. These settlements are as satisfactory and legal as those reached in Court.
In order to close non-essential matters via a final Order or Decree, the Courts of Harris and the surrounding metropolitan counties, such as my own Brazoria County, are all now accepting the prove-up of uncontested matters through the use of Affidavits of one, or both, of the parties. This process may be used for the prove-up of uncontested divorces, Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationships or the Modifications of such cases, and name changes. In fact, this is the only present way to close such cases to a final Order.
Should you have any questions regarding the above information, or any Family Law or Probate/Estate Law situation with which you are attempting to deal with during this trying time or with which you are requesting our assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out and we’ll do our best to help you.
Good luck to you and God Bless,
John Powell, III