COVID-19 and Child Custody
In this new world of social isolation, shuttering schools, and many counties and states implementing shelter-in-place regulations, the area of family law is trying to address a novel area of law in a world of COVID-19 involving child custody and co-parenting matters.
Because the global pandemic is expanding and exhibiting no sign of slowing down in the near future, many citizens are legally mandated to remain in their homes and leave just for “essential” reasons, such as going out to get food or medicine. Many businesses encourage their workers to work from home, and for the remainder of the school year, virtually all schools are now paving new ground with online learning and tools for students.
Child Custody and a Global Pandemic
Typically, both parents have a legal right to physical and legal custody of their child under the parenting plan formed by both parents which then became part of the documentation for the divorce judgment. In some cases, a parent may be a doctor or nurse who is exposed to the COVID-19 virus in emergency rooms. In other cases, a parent may be a grocery store worker who deals with hundreds of people all day long. One parent may understandably feel concerned to adhere to a parenting schedule that potentially exposes their child to this novel virus which has no known cure. One case has already had a parent, who was an emergency room doctor, have her children legally taken from her and custody awarded to the father under the legal argument that she was exposing her child to COVID-19.
To have the minimum amount of exposure to this virus as possible is best for everyone, including children. This is the exact reason that governments around the world are making unprecedented appeals to request people to stay at home and socially isolate themselves from others. In the best-case scenario, the parents would actually come to an understanding on the safest setting for their child, considering the complicated circumstances in which the world currently finds itself. No child is that far from the other parent with video chat and other technological ways of communicating, and the hope is that this virus will be eradicated sooner rather than later through a vaccine or a cure.
Experts Weigh In
At the moment, legal experts seem to believe that an already established parenting plan is still legally valid in the absence of a new parenting plan. Most courts are not even open to litigating such matters currently. Nevertheless, one parent may be able to contact the authorities and somehow force the other parent to abide by the original court order. This is a very turbulent time both for society, families and the courts. At best, the legal debates around this subject are ambiguous and changing by the day. The Court is always willing to determine the best interests of the child, however they are also cognizant that some parents will try to use the Covid 19 crisis to their advantage to keep children longer. The trend locally is for the Court, except in the most exigent of circumstances, to enforce the time sharing Order.
Let us Help You Today
If you are concerned about how COVID-19 may affect your child custody arrangement, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale family law attorney at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. at 954-467-6656 or visit us online to schedule a free consultation today.