Family violence victims everywhere may be wondering whether risking exposure to COVID-19 is safer than staying home.

Tuesday, The New York Times reported “How Domestic Abuse Has Risen Worldwide Since Coronavirus” along with a stark warning that domestic abuse could be the new COVID-19 crisis.

On April 5, 2020, the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, tweeted: “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.” Before COVID-19 was even labeled a pandemic, Governor Abbott acknowledged that “Texas is committed to empowering the survivors of domestic abuse…”

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS, AND GET HELP

The Safe at Home emergency order, colloquially known as “shelter-in-place”, applicable to Collin County residents does not limit protections available to victims of domestic violence—relief and rescue for domestic violence victims remains essential.

First, law enforcement and associated resources are still available. Police are considered essential under the Safe at Home emergency order. If you need help, do not hesitate to call 911.

However, in a domestic violence situation, COVID-19 does affect how you can react.

It is important to plan an escape route that likely does not involve neighbors or non-essential in- person contact. It is advisable to ensure you have a secure line of communication that excludes an abuser’s access to the communication. Specifically, ensure that the abuser does not have access to message in real time such as on a cloud server.

Second, Texas courts are also still accessible to hear and consider matters involving the safety and protection of you and your family members while abiding by applicable emergency shelter- in-place orders. In cases of domestic violence, it may be advisable to seek a protective order so that the order is in the police system and to avoid future fatal contact. Although Texas courts are rescheduling most non-emergency hearings at this time, Collin County courts are hearing emergency issues, such as domestic violence issues, remotely as deemed necessary by each individual court. Additionally, courts are available to receive necessary filings remotely.

Through at least April 30, 2020, all civil, family and probate case documents filed in eFileTexas are electronically accessible and searchable at no cost to you.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

You are not alone. Additional resources for victims of domestic violence in Collin County can be found here: collincountyda.com/victim-resources

Co-Authors:

Susan Rankin
Mediator
Shareholder, Family Law Section
Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett & Moser, P.C.
srankin@qslwm.com

Laura H. Caston
Associate Attorney, Family Law Section
Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett & Moser, P.C.
lcaston@qslwm.com

www.qslwm.com

For the safety of our community, as guided by the measures set forth in the Safe at Home order in effect in Collin County, our team is available via videoconferencing, phone and email to walk you through best practices in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of yourself and your children.

Susan Rankin and Laura Caston

QSWLM Law Firm was recently ranked as one of the top 20 law firms by the Dallas Business Journal, serving clients in multiple disciplines, including family law, bankruptcy, and commercial litigation.