As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to sweep the nation, governors
and state officials are declaring states of emergency that change how
their cities and states function. If you live in Texas and have a court
date coming up, you're probably wondering how exactly COVID-19 may
affect your case.
Governor Abbott has declared a state of disaster across all 254 Texas counties
due to COVID-19. Understanding how the governor's declaration affects
your court date will help you navigate this uncertain and stressful time.
Will Texas Courts Close Due to COVID-19?
The answer to this is: maybe. According to a series of emergency orders
issued by the Texas Judicial Branch, county judges will decide whether
or not courts remain open in their counties during the COVID-19 epidemic.
You can read Texas Judicial Branch updates on COVID-19 and emergency orders
by visiting their website.
Generally, it's safe to assume that COVID-19 will disrupt your court
appearance in some way if you have a court date scheduled before May 8th (when the state of disaster will lift). You can visit the Texas Judicial
Branch's website to
view which courts are currently closed. At the time of writing this article, courts in various counties like
Falls and Bexar have closed entirely until further notice. Courts in some
other counties, like Collin, have closed until early or mid-May. Many
counties, like Bowie, are only hearing essential cases.
Whether or not courts are open during the COVID-19 pandemic may vary, even
court-by-court. For example, the Dallas Rowlett Municipal Court is closed
entirely and re-opens on April 6th. The Dallas City of University Park Municipal Court, on the other hand,
is postponing Open Court Sessions until April 1st and keeping the clerk's window open in the interim.
Expect courts to continue closing as the coronavirus pandemic continues
to escalate. Again, checking the Texas Judicial Branch website consistently
will help you remain up-to-date on court closings.
How Will Court Hearings Proceed During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Even if the court you have a hearing at is closed, you may still be able
to participate in a hearing or other court process during the COVID-19
pandemic. A series of emergency orders by Governor Abbott and the Texas
Judicial Branch specify the following procedures for court dates during
Courts can modify or extend deadlines and processes up to June 7th. Deadlines and procedures can be extended up to 30 days after the state
of disaster lifts, which will occur on May 8th (pending an extension of the state of disaster by Governor Abbott). Expect
your court date to change as your court reacts to developments in the pandemic.
Court proceedings might continue remotely. Currently, many courts are using the video teleconferencing software Zoom
to conduct remote hearings, depositions, and other proceedings. Be aware
that you may be asked to participate in a court procedure remotely. You
should also be mindful that sworn statements made remotely can be considered
evidence, even out of court.
Your court date may be held at a different location. It's unlikely, but technically courts are allowed to continue with
proceedings at a different, in-county location. Be prepared to show up
at an unfamiliar location for your court date.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, a fever, or are coughing and
sneezing, you must notify the court. Courts will notify every participant in a proceeding if anyone is experiencing
these symptoms. Depending on the role of the participant in the proceeding,
the court date may be adjusted or postponed to protect court members and
Parents may need to seek amendments to possession arrangements. Currently, courts require parents who have possession arrangements to comply
with those arrangements, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic. A variety
of factors, such as work-from-home arrangements and school closings, may
require parents to re-negotiate possession arrangements during the COVID-19
epidemic. If you want to amend your possession arrangement during this
time, seek the help of an experienced
family law attorney.
Local, state, and national group-size restrictions take precedence over
court-specific limits. For example, if the government mandates that no group larger than five
people can aggregate at any time in a court, that order supersedes any
local group-size limits it may conflict with.
Proceedings for evictions and recovery of residential property are currently
postponed until April 19th. This date is subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress.
Landlords may file new eviction notices during this time, but the proceedings
will be postponed until the specified date in the most recent emergency
order by Governor Abbott and the Texas Judicial Branch.
Checking the Texas Judicial Website frequently will help you understand
how the COVID-19 pandemic affects your court date. An experienced family
law attorney can also help you navigate your court date during the pandemic
if your case is family law-related.
Reach Out to Our Experienced Family Law Team and Get the Information You Need!
At the Law Office of Kathryn Marteeny, we understand how nerve-wracking
a court appearance can be. Our experienced, compassionate team can help
you understand how the coronavirus pandemic will affect your upcoming
court date and navigate this situation successfully.
Get started on your case today and contact us
online or at (713) 936-2300
to schedule a consultation.