As counties and states respond to this pandemic - opening up, shutting down, opening up only certain areas while shutting down others - it’s hard to keep up with what is expected of you. When you add transferring children and visitation rights to this crisis, the situation can be downright scary.
We all want to keep our children safe, and we all want to be with our children as much as we can. In the midst of a global pandemic with continuous fluctuations in information and laws, sharing custody of your children can become very murky. What if arrangements need to be renegotiated? What if someone is sick? What if one parent is being less cautious? What can be done?
Handling Child Custody During COVID-19
Make an Agreement
The first and best option is for parents to contact one another and make an agreement. If both parties are willing to work together, hopefully a conclusion can be reached that is best for everyone involved. After arrangements have been made, get them in writing. Parents should then submit this new agreement to their lawyers and to the courts. Staying covered by this paper trail will help parents in case someone wants to claim that court-ordered rules were disobeyed.
Stick to the Original Court Order
If parents can’t agree on modifications resulting from the pandemic, it’s best to stick to the original court order. Courts aren’t going to be interested in taking up time and resources for temporary changes. Once they’ve made a ruling, judges want that ruling to stand. No matter how reasonable one feels their actions are, steps taken to defy a court’s orders aren’t going to be seen favorably. A parent should stick to the judge’s original rulings, and contact their lawyers if they earnestly believe something needs to change.
What if Someone Is Diagnosed with COVID-19?
Get documentation. Courts will generally allow someone to break a ruling due to illness. One’s best course of action, again, is to work out a temporary arrangement with the other parent for the duration of quarantine, typically two weeks. If agreement isn’t an option, then submit diagnosis paperwork to the lawyers and the courts. Stay safe, and remain legally protected.
What if a Parent Isn’t Being Cautious?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done if one parent isn’t taking precautions against COVID-19. Courts generally allow parents to raise their children how they see fit. As long as no direct laws are being broken, and as long as a child isn’t being directly endangered, courts will generally side with whichever parent had legal custody at the time in question. Once again, try to make an overt agreement with the other parent first, and if that doesn’t work, fall back on the original court ruling.
If a parent chooses to withhold the child out of COVID-19 concerns, they do so at their own risk. If the court decides this parent is being held in contempt, the parent could face serious legal trouble.
Even if a child custody situation is less than ideal during this difficult pandemic, choices about what to do next don’t have to be. With an agreeable ex-partner, it can be as easy as figuring out a plan together, documenting it, and moving forward. In a situation where an arrangement can’t be made, stick to the original court decision or get an attorney involved.
If you need legal assistance regarding a custody conflict, contact us at the Law Office of Alexandra White, PC by dialing (303) 647-4245 or submitting an online contact form here.