Covid, Custody and Visitation

Divorce along with custody and visitation matters can be stressful at the best of times, and Covid-19 has added additional challenges to the mix. Here are some ways to prioritize the health of your child(ren), while handling any visitation issues that may arise.

Honoring Existing Visitation Agreements

During this time, courts are expecting parents to honor existing custody agreements and visitation schedules. You should not attempt to keep your child away from the other parent if no one in your ex-partner’s household has been exposed to COVID-19, shows symptoms, or has tested positive. In such cases, originally scheduled visitation should continue. Failure to comply can result in being found in contempt of court. Courts will not look favorably on anyone using COVID-19 as an excuse to withhold visitation or delay returning your child to the parent that should have the child according to the custody agreement.

Exceptions for High-Risk Factors

However, if there are mitigating circumstances due to high-risk factors, seeking a temporary change to a custody agreement is valid. Legitimate factors that can justify such changes include:

  • your ex has a high-risk job where they are frequently exposed to Covid-19,
  • your child is at high risk for Covid-19,
  • your ex has symptoms of Covid-19,
  • your ex has been exposed to someone who has Covid-19 symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis.

In such cases, you should consult with us immediately, so we may assist you in getting an emergency hearing to petition the court to make reasonable modifications to your existing order. We know the health and safety of your child(ren) is your highest priority, and we promise to make it ours as well.

Virtual Visitation Sessions

If indeed there are safety reasons why either parent cannot have in-person visitation due to COVID-19, there are ample ways to keep your kids connected to you or the other parent. If in-person visitation has been temporarily postponed, you can set up times for your child(ren) to speak to the other parent. Phone calls and text messages along with Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Google Meets, or Facebook Messenger video chats are all ways to keep in touch. You can even choose a Netflix movie to all watch together, while physically distancing. If your kids and the other parent like to play video games together, they can connect and share games through various home gaming systems. When a child and parent wear audio gaming headsets, they can talk throughout their game time. Even playing phone games with chat functions can be a way to bond and maintain closeness.

What to Do if a Co-parent Withholds Your Child

First, you should attempt to compromise and come to an agreement directly with your ex. For example, suggest switching to the summer schedule of visitation to help accommodate new needs. If negotiating with them directly is ineffective, your next course of action will be to contact us so we may file a contempt with the court for you, documenting all the reasons why this matter constitutes contemptuous behavior. After the contempt order is granted, it will generally direct the immediate exchange of the child and award a certain amount of attorney fees and expenses to be paid to you for having to take your ex to court.

While a custody agreement in the time of COVID-19 calls for creative problem-solving and maintaining flexibility, it’s possible to keep visitations going and to adhere to custody agreements; or adjust them if needed. If you both do your best to cooperate, putting the well-being of your child(ren) first, your family will make it through this time and protect everyone’s health. If physical distancing is necessary, remember that technology will be your new best friend in making sure that being apart doesn’t lead to lacking quality time and closeness between kids and both of their parents.