COVID-19 continues to infringe on many areas of our lives in ways large and small. One of its most challenging impacts is on families – especially when child custody and visitation rights are at stake.
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020. Who knew it would still be a growing problem in America and around the world almost a year later? We’re still sensing the fallout, especially in families.
On a more personal side, the coronavirus has added a new level of angst among two-household families who share custody of a child. Many parents struggled to live by court-sanctioned parenting agreements before COVID-19. They find it even tougher now.
If this sounds like you, the Jackson family law group at Derek L. Hall, Attorney at Law has the skill, experience and passion to guide you through these difficult days. Navigating child custody and visitation issues is what we do. Contact us now to find out how we can help.
Legal Implications of Child Visitation, Custody and COVID-19
Parents who couldn’t agree on many family issues when they were together may be especially prone to conflict now. The unpredictable nature of COVID-19 adds additional stress to an already volatile situation.
Typical COVID-19 issues are how to visit friends, whether to participate in after-school activities, the best way to provide childcare, what to do about college and the potential risk parents pose by the nature of their work environment. All of these and more drive parents to the top of the frustration index.
Although children are not generally as susceptible to the coronavirus and tend to experience lighter cases, research shows they are “silent spreaders.” Some family courts hold that failure to take reasonable precautions to protect children from the coronavirus may result in a reduction in a parent’s allotted time.
The November and December holiday seasons raised the question about how children could safely fly or take other public transportation to visit both parents living far apart. How does the existing custody agreement apply in the age of COVID-19? Are parents still bound by the agreement when shelter-in-place orders are in effect?
Family courts have not established a consistent approach to dealing with these and other issues. However, they have generally specified that the court must approved any change in the existing custody agreement in advance.
Temporary Modifications to Custody Agreement
Parenting agreements remain the same despite shelter-in-place or social distancing orders. If you realize that your existing custody agreement needs adjustments to take into account your child’s safety amidst the coronavirus, be proactive. Ask a reliable family lawyer like those with Derek L. Hall, Attorney at Law, to help you achieve a temporary modification.
Be aware that temporary modifications are not easy to get. You will need “a strong factual showing of imminent danger or severe detriment to the child.”
There are several different types of temporary modifications, including:
- Delay in-person visits temporarily
- Temporarily postpone shared physical custody
- Daily or periodic telephone calls or video meetings
- Supervised visitation
Tips for Parents Sharing Custody of a Child Throughout the Pandemic
To be successful at co-parenting during theCOVID-19 era, your child’s best interest must be top priority. This mindset must be agreed upon by both parents to fairly negotiate changes to a custody agreement.
Setting aside personal grievances is difficult. So is blocking out painful memories that caused the family breakup in the beginning. Instead, you and the other co-parent need to look inward to determine what changes are best for the child and others in the home.
This becomes especially hard if you fear that giving up any of your custody time temporarily may lead the child to prefer the other parent. This is painful if you feel your co-parent is manipulating the situation.
You may also find yourself agonizing over whether giving up time with your child temporarily may mean you’ll never get the time back. From a financial standpoint, there’s also the question of whether more child support will go along with how the time with each parent is allocated.
Keep your relationship with the child steady, faithful and true. If needed, set up Zoom meetings with your child as a substitute for in-person visits.
How Parents Can Work Together to Keep Each Household Safe
Remember, all of us are fighting against a new and deadly enemy that no one fully understands. In fact, we only heard of the coronavirus in late 2019. So, doing your part to slow it down and keep your child safe should be one thing you and your co-parent can agree on.
Your child’s health and safety hang in the balance.
Co-parents can consider these strategies to work together during these trying times:
- Keep communication open, responsive and prompt.
- Avoid keeping score.
- Begin each conversation with finding a solution together as your goal.
- Stay socially connected with your child while physically distanced. Try to set up virtual visits on Zoom or other call-sharing platforms.
- Once the pandemic is over, set aside extra time for the non-custodial parent and child to get re-acquainted.
- Reassure your child – and encourage your co-parent to do the same — that the family will get through these difficult times and love will find a way.
Contact Our Child Custody Law Firm for Help
It’s rarely easy to manage child custody issues, visitation rights and the other matters that make co-parenting a daily challenge. COVID-19 is changing – or at least adapting – the rules in ways no one could have predicted.
If you see a need to modify your custody agreement or establish a new one, don’t try to go it alone. Contact our child custody team at Derek L. Hall, Attorney at Law. Contact us now for a free initial consultation and let’s get started.