The COVID-19 pandemic opened a series of problems, but one major issue troubling millions is co-parenting. The pandemic has complicated child custody arrangements. Do parents still follow court orders? Should they make adjustments given the situation? What do they need to do when their child is left in an untrustworthy partner’s hands?
Many of these concerns have no clear answer. States have tried their best to mediate the situation by enforcing temporary arrangements or hosting virtual sessions. However, there are still many questions about who the child must go to when travel is restricted.
If you are co-parenting a child, here are three things that you need to do during these difficult times.
Discuss a temporary compromise on custody
The most difficult part of co-parenting during a pandemic is navigating through custody and visitation. If your routine is every few weeks, then you might have to reconsider that. It is unsafe for you and your child to be moving around during a pandemic. Depending on where you live, travel can also be more difficult due to lockdowns. This is why we suggest being more open-minded to changes this year.
For the most part, the child custody rules still apply. However, since courts will most likely be closed or have limited capacity, you will need to negotiate with the other parent on the best course of action. The child’s health and welfare precede everything, so you can easily explain why visitation cannot be actively maintained.
Some states have issued temporary orders stating that the child must stay in the primary parent’s home until further notice. However, this would vary in every state, and courts emphasize that this is a temporary arrangement. Normal child custody orders would remain once the situation has subsided.
Unfortunately, some states have no clear instructions on whether the orders still apply if the parent is a frontliner. In these cases, it is best to try to have an agreement with the other parent. If you have issues with the child’s safety in the other person, you can do this in the presence of a lawyer. Some courts would also have virtual sessions to help define the terms as well.
Have virtual meetings with the other parent
Unfortunately, some individuals are taking advantage of the situation. For parents who are not on good terms, there have been cases wherein the child is being withheld in the other parent’s home and negatively influenced. In this case, it is important to regularly schedule video calls to keep your involvement in the child’s life.
If you have your doubts and concerns, a family attorney will be able to help you. They might be able to have an emergency preceding to help your case if it is deemed serious. Currently, the guidance through handling child custody is unclear, but a legal expert will help you. The court might issue mandatory virtual sessions or therapy, depending on what is presented to them.
Otherwise, amicable co-parents should still do this practice. This is to help compensate for the times when the child cannot visit. Some children might not fully understand the situation, so this is a way to make sure they don’t feel abandoned. Courts would also require this for certain parents as a replacement for visitation. The law still stresses the need for the child to be in contact with both parents.
Remember that the court favors the child’s safety
You might be concerned about what the court would do if regular child custody rules are not followed. Something that everyone should remember is that the pandemic caught everyone by surprise. There are no fixed rules when handling a pandemic, and even courts themselves are figuring it out. One thing that remains constant, though, is the concern for the children.
Even if the terms of custody have been slightly modified, parents will likely not face any legal repercussions if the result was to protect the child. In fact, judges and counselors can even let the changes go and commend the parents for their cooperation during the pandemic. Once the situation has returned to normal, the courts can renegotiate or modify the terms how they see fit.
When in doubt, it is best to consult with your family lawyer on the right course of action. Even though most courts will be closed, special consideration can be done in dire situations. When there is reason to believe that the child is in danger of being influenced, courts and judges will go above and beyond to resolve the situation.