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What the Texas-Louisiana Travel Quarantine Means

On Sunday, March 29, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced via Executive Order new travel restrictions for Louisianans traveling to Texas. Learn more about what this means for those who share custody across the border.  

On Sunday, March 29, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced via Executive Order new travel restrictions for Louisianans traveling to Texas.  The hot take on the announcement was that it was a ban on travel from Louisiana.  However, that is not the case.  Rather, the Governor's announcement states that Louisianans are required to quarantine for 14 days before entering public spaces in Texas.  Governor Abbott had previously issued an Executive Order requiring any travelers from New Orleans going in Texas by plane to self-quarantine.  Sunday's Order merely expands the previous Order to include all road travel into the state from Louisiana.  Texas will be enforcing this new Executive Order with checkpoints at points of entry into the state.  Louisiana travelers will be expected to submit a form indicating where they will self-quarantine.
Notable exemptions from the Order include military travelers, emergency responders, healthcare responders, and commercial and infrastructure travel. 
The expectations of the State of Texas for Louisiana travelers during the quarantine include having no visitors other than health care providers, and will reportedly be monitoring the quarantined individuals with Texas officials.  The Order further calls for a $1,000 fine and/or a 180-day jail sentence for violations.
In the event a Louisiana traveler has not quarantined for 14 days, they may leave the State of Texas with no penalty.
From a family law practitioner's perspective, this affects many of our clients who either reside in Texas, or have children in common with a party who resides in Texas.  During this time, all Louisiana custody judgments and orders have remained in effect, unless specifically modified since the COVID-19 outbreak.  If you have a client, or an opposing party, traveling to and from Texas in order to exchange your child, the following might be some of the effects:
1. A Texas resident who travels into Louisiana and returns with a child from Louisiana:  Under this scenario, the travel restrictions would apply.  The Texas resident should remain quarantined with the child.  This will not prevent the Texas resident from returning the child to the State of Louisiana prior to the 14-day quarantine period, as the Executive Order specifically allows travelers from Louisiana to leave the State of Texas without penalty.
2. A Louisiana Resident traveling to Texas with a child, dropping a child off to a Texas resident, and returning to Louisiana:  The quarantine would still affect the child from Louisiana, but would not affect the Louisiana domiciliary.  However, the Louisiana traveler should not that the travel ban will prevent the Louisiana traveler from going anywhere except the quarantine location provided on the DPS form.  The Louisiana resident should state their business to DPS, namely the location of the custody exchange, and the Louisiana resident should not break quarantine protocols by going anywhere but the location of the custody exchange.
While the Governor's Executive Order does not precisely address custody exchanges, there is no reason to believe that it should not apply for Louisiana children traveling to Texas for custodial periods.  Advise your clients accordingly.

Article by Family Law Section President Jonathan T. Jarrett