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COVID-19/Coronavirus: Tips For Child Custody and Visitation Issues

You’re concerned about the Coronavirus and want to do everything possible to safeguard your kids from this fast spreading pandemic. But as a divorced or single parent, you’ve also got the pressure of needing to coordinate precautionary measures with the other parent.

Can the Coronavirus disrupt our custody plans? When is it not safe for your kids to travel to see their other parent? What about international custody? We’ve been fielding a lot of calls from parents this week with these urgent questions about coronavirus and its impact on custody. Here are some tips during this time of crisis:

1. In most circumstances, you can call the other parent and talk over your concerns. The other parent is probably also worried about the traveling and/or a plan during school closures. The other parent will probably also want to discuss alternatives. Here are some possible alternatives:

  1. If the child is scheduled to travel, could the other parent spend time with the kids in your hometown this weekend?
  2. Could they FaceTime instead?
  3. Can you come to an agreement that you will tack a week on to summer vacation parenting time to make up for lost time over the next month and/or until the COVID-19 crisis wanes?

If you can reach your own agreement, get it in writing and show it to your lawyer. The lawyer may advise you to have it made into a stipulation and order.

2. If you get pushback from the other parent and they refuse to change the schedule, you may be tempted to disregard your order and refuse to do the custody exchange. Before going this route, be aware that unilaterally deciding to ignore the court ordered timeshare schedule without first getting an agreement from the parent or going to court, can cause you many problems. The courts take interference with custody and visitation seriously. Potential consequences for refusing to follow parenting orders could include changes in the parenting plan or (in some cases) even criminal arrest for kidnapping.

3. If you can’t agree on a change in timeshare plans, and if you believe that your child is at increased risk for exposure to COVID-19 while in the other parent’s care, discuss this with your attorney. Under some circumstances, an emergency request to the Court may be appropriate. The standard on emergency orders, however, is very high. Be prepared to convince the judge that there are “exigent circumstances” and “a risk of irreparable harm” to the child without the emergency modification.

Things to consider:

  1. Has the other parent had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19?
  2. Has the other parent recently traveled to Italy or China?
  3. Does your child have a compromised immune system or other underlying health condition?

These are all important factors for the courts to consider in creating a temporary alternative custody plan. The above tips are for orders and cases in California. The rules in other states and jurisdictions may vary.

To get answers that directly apply to your unique situation, you should seek the advice of an attorney. Our office offers phone, online virtual or in person appointments.

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