How COVID-19 Might Impact Parenting Time
As of August 2020, over 150,000 Americans have died because of COVID-19. While evidence suggests that children are at a lower risk of experiencing symptoms of the illness, this is not always the case. There is also a possibility that they will acquire the illness and spread it to others, and this may be something to consider when it comes to parenting time and having to hand your child over to his or her other parent.
You Generally Cannot Unilaterally Modify Parenting Time
It is important to understand that you don’t have the authority to defy or attempt to modify a parenting time schedule on your own. Instead, you can talk to the noncustodial parent about any concerns that you have about your child’s safety during this unprecedented time. If you have a good relationship with the noncustodial parent, it may be relatively easy to come to an agreement without the need to go to court. However, if issues do arise, don’t hesitate to contact Lawrence Law to speak with one of our divorce attorneys to learn more about your options.
Review the Parenting Plan
Ideally, you and your former partner created a parenting plan that would outline how you two would work together to raise your child. The plan should spell out what happens in the event of a custody dispute and how any arguments should be resolved. For instance, the document might stipulate that disagreements are to be resolved with the help of a mediator.
Most mediators have worked as family lawyers or otherwise have the training and experience to help resolve issues in a timely and civil manner. Working with a neutral party can be especially helpful considering that you probably didn’t anticipate custody issues stemming from a global health emergency.
Gather Evidence to Justify Your Position
If you’ve already taken steps to limit parenting time, consider reaching out to an attorney. A divorce lawyer can help you gather evidence that might justify any steps that you took to defy or modify an existing custody order. For instance, if the other parent tested positive for the virus, you may be justified in not allowing your child to see that individual. If you know that your child has shown symptoms of the condition, you could claim that you were looking out for the other parent’s health and safety.
Medical records or physician testimony could be used to show that you have been immunocompromised and at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 after spending time in close proximity with others who tested positive. Medical professionals have also found evidence that individuals with asthma, who are overweight or who have diabetes experience greater side effects of the coronavirus. One of our family lawyers at Lawrence Law could help you obtain medical records or help to put them into context during a court hearing.
A judge might agree with your decision to withhold custody in the event that the other parent has traveled to an area where the virus is prevalent. Finally, it may be possible to avoid penalties for defying an existing court order if you can show that your child will be exposed to individuals who don’t practice social distancing.
The Other Parent Still Has Rights
As a family law attorney will likely tell you, the other parent still has the right to be in your child’s life. Even if arrangements are made to avoid physical contact for the time being, you should allow your child to call or write letters to that person. Depending on your child’s age, it might be appropriate to allow your child to communicate with a parent through social media.
It may also be a good idea to allow for video chats so that your child doesn’t have to go weeks or months without actually seeing his or her mother or father. Whatever arrangement that you and the child’s noncustodial parent come to, it is important that it takes your son or daughter’s best interests into consideration.
What Happens If You Violate a Custody Order?
You could face a variety of consequences for violating a visitation order. The severity of those consequences will depend on your actions, if you have violated the order in the past and the judge’s discretion. In some cases, offenders are simply be told to comply with the order or risk being in contempt of court. If you are in contempt of court, you could be fined, sent to jail or lose custody of your children on a temporary or permanent basis.
A family law attorney may be able to provide greater insight into what will happen if you don’t follow the parenting time schedule. Legal counsel could help you prepare for a hearing and share advice about how you should act in court. Ideally, you will come to a hearing well-rested and looking respectable, and it is also a good idea to be polite to the judge and the child’s other parent. By showing that you take the matter seriously, the judge will more likely to show leniency when making a ruling.
The Parenting Time Schedule Might Be Modified
There is a chance that the judge overseeing your case will modify the current parenting time schedule. This may ease your concerns while still doing what is in the best interest of the child. For example, the noncustodial parent might be allowed to come over for a family dinner once or twice a week. It’s possible to stipulate that visitation will be suspended until after the noncustodial parent tests negative for the coronavirus for a certain period of time.
Consider Whether Your Objections Are Truly Related to COVID-19
When a relationship ends, there is a good chance that you will experience a variety of emotions such as anger and sadness. However, it is important that you don’t let your personal feelings for your former spouse or partner get in the way of doing what is best for your children. One of the best ways to avoid allowing negative emotions to stop you from being a great parent is to process them in a healthy way.
For instance, it might be a good idea to talk with a therapist, enroll in a yoga class or start running every night after work. Any healthy hobby can be good for dealing with stress. A divorce lawyer will tell you more about the benefits of controlling your emotions and where you can get help coping with what has happened in your life. Generally speaking, learning how to become mentally strong makes it easier to help your child deal with the changes that he or she is being forced to adapt to.
Seek Legal Assistance Before Making Rash Decisions
If you need a family law or divorce attorney, feel free to contact Lawrence Law at your earliest convenience. You can reach us by calling 908-645-1000. It is also possible to get in contact with us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re prepared to answer any legal questions related to child custody and the COVID-19 crisis.