COVID-19 Can Strain Custody Agreements

On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. Within a few months, the virus has made its way throughout the United States, and it has affected almost every household in some way. If you share child custody, it can be an extremely trying time to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Staying Safe

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc across the country, self-isolating is one way to keep your family safe. State and local governments have shut down, and many states have issued stay-at-home orders. Everyone wants to keep their children safe during the pandemic. However, if your ex-partner is an essential worker or refuses to adhere to stay-at-home rules, it can threaten your children’s welfare. After all, there have been over 168,000 cases in New Jersey as of June 2020.

Temporary Change in Custody Arrangements

For the most part, COVID-19 restrictions should not affect your court-ordered custody arrangements. You can keep your children on the same schedule as long as you are allowed to travel in the state. However, if the other parent is exposed to COVID-19 or the household poses a safety risk, you should think about other plans. If you need to change custody visits, you might be able to handle these issues between you and the other parent. For those who cannot work out alternate plans, taking the case to court could be the only option.

While you may want to take matters into your own hands, this is not the time to deny visitation without a court order. The courts will not look kindly on your case if you have stopped your children from visiting the other parent. In some extreme cases, you might even be held in contempt or sanctioned by the court.

Some situations can justify a change in child custody, including if:

  • The other parent is showing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • The other parent has been exposed to COVID-19.
  • The other parent is in an essential job with exposure to COVID-19.
  • The other parent’s household poses a risk for COVID-19.

Before you take action on your part, you will want to consult a Jenkintown family law attorney. If you keep the other parent away from their children, you could face severe consequences.

Emergency Custody Orders

This coronavirus crisis has put a strain on many families. If you believe that the other parent’s home is a risk to your child’s health, you must petition the courts. The judge will decide if there is sufficient evidence to make a change in your custody agreement. In some situations, the courts might make alternative arrangements for your child’s custody. These arrangements include:

  • Scheduling visits for a later date and time
  • Temporarily postponing in-person visits
  • Conducting virtual visits through Zoom or FaceTime
  • Communicating by text messages or phone calls

Unfortunately, there are many potential situations where the other parent will not agree to changes without the court’s invention. Even during a pandemic, you may want to seek the legal advice of an attorney. Many attorneys are working from virtual offices, and they can help give you the right information to help protect your children during this virus outbreak.

If the other parent’s household poses a health risk to your child, you will probably need the courts to act on your behalf. A family law attorney will help you file a temporary emergency custody order in the family court. With this order, you can protect your children from any risks in the other household. Since COVID-19 has changed the court’s operating schedule, you will need an experienced attorney to assist during these challenging times.

Your Jenkintown Family Law Attorney

Consider contacting the office of Morgenstern & Rochester if you have any concerns about your child custody agreements during the COVID-19 crisis. Our legal team can help resolve your custody issues or answer any questions. We want to help you explore all your legal options during these stressful times. Call the Cherry Hill office at (856) 489-6200 or visit our website to schedule a consultation.