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Remote Learning and Child Custody

Kristiana Butler | September 2, 2020

Frustrated parents across Texas are juggling working from home and managing their kids’ Zoom class schedules. With tensions running high, disagreements about remote learning are flooding courtrooms. In a perfect world, parents would work together to conquer in-person/remote/hybrid learning. But if COVID-19 is bringing out the worst in your co-parent and you are thinking about filing a child custody lawsuit, consider your options.

In-person or Remote Learning

If you have a child custody order or decree, take a look in the first few pages. Who has the right to make educational decisions? When a parent has the exclusive right to make those decisions, that parent decides between in-person and remote school. If the decision is to be made by agreement, that’s another story. The current trend in many courts is to allow in-person learning unless there are good reasons to keep a child home, like a parent undergoing chemotherapy. That said, a few judges are allowing stay-at-home parents to educate children remotely over co-parent objections. It is important to work with an attorney who is familiar with the recent rulings in your particular court. This is a brave new world and things change quickly.

Managing Remote School

It should be simple: the parent who has the kids teaches the kids. If your time with the children ends at the time school starts, the other parent is responsible for remote schooling unless you agree otherwise. Remote school is still school, and judges and principals expect students to be ready to learn at the designated parent’s house before the virtual bell rings.  If one parent has a better work schedule for remote learning, it might make sense to adjust accordingly. Temporary changes due to COVID may not mean the possession schedule changes permanently, but anything that lasts for a long time can have an impact on future schedules. Consider consulting an experienced child custody lawyer about possible ramifications in the long term.

Determining Beginning and Ending Times

Look at the bell schedule published for your child’s school. If your possession order ends at the time school resumes or begins at the time school is dismissed, follow the school’s official schedule. Your child’s last Zoom meeting may end at 2 p.m., but the school day does not end until the time officially published by your child’s school.

What if School is Shut Down?

The Texas Supreme Court says to follow the official school schedule. Follow the original calendar if your child’s school is temporarily closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Even in a pandemic, you should review and follow your family’s specific custody order when parents disagree.

Parents with COVID-related school questions should contact an experienced Austin child custody lawyer to explore options. In the meantime, focus on communicating with your co-parent and keep records of negotiations about COVID-19 and your child’s education.

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