In: Child Custody0

Dealing with Parenting Time During the Pandemic

COVID-19 has touched everyone in the country in some way. And it is even affecting child custody and parenting time issues.

All good parents want to keep their children safe. That is sometimes difficult under the best circumstances, but it becomes even more of a challenge during a pandemic such as COVID-19. The safety of children has been an issue for many parents who are trying to comply with child custody orders but do not want to expose their children to the virus. Below are some tips all divorced parents should follow when dealing with parenting time during a pandemic.

Child Custody Issues During a Pandemic

When one’s child goes off to the other parent’s home as part of a child custody order, there are many issues the parent faces during a pandemic. The first is worrying about the people in the other home. There is no way to determine if the other parent has been exposed to the virus, or if they even have it but are asymptomatic. There may also be other people in the home, as well, such as a new spouse, or children from another relationship. Exposing a child to all of these people has become risky.

Parents also often do not know what their former spouse is doing with the children during the pandemic. Parents that are not with their child may worry if the other parent is taking the child with them to serious areas of exposure. They likely even worry whether the other parent is enforcing hand washing and other preventative measures once they get back home after being in a serious area of exposure. All of these are issues parents have had to deal with over the past several weeks and unfortunately, there are no firm answers yet.

Family Courts During the Pandemic

In most situations, it is easy to simply turn to the courts to determine how child custody issues should be resolved. This, too, has been much more difficult during the pandemic. The pandemic restrictions on in-person court hearings made it seem impossible to petition the court for a temporary change in a child custody order. (These restrictions on hearings are lifting.) When a parent makes up new rules about parenting time on their own, without getting a new court order or the consent of the other party, they are subject to being held in contempt of court.

The other issue surrounding family courts in Tennessee during the pandemic is that there is not a uniform outlook on how this should be handled. The court in Davidson County, for example, issued a general order for pandemics which stated that the primary residential parent should take custody of the child within four hours of a “lockdown” or “shelter in place” order from the government, and the child should remain with that parent until the order is lifted. Several other courts have held the contrary view, finding that parents should follow the original child custody order during the pandemic. Some courts issued a general order that advised what to do if the other parent had covid-19. It is of note that under the State executive orders for the pandemic, traveling for exchanging children pursuant to a parenting plan has been allowed all along, so the State stay-at-home order would not have given you a good excuse for not following your parenting plan.

Need Help with Child Custody or Parenting Time Issues During COVID-19? Call This Tennessee Family Lawyer

The only way to really understand what to do about child custody and parenting time issues during the pandemic is to speak to a family lawyer. Contact me, Judy A. Oxford, for advice on orders and guidelines. If you need a change in your child custody order, I can also help to try to obtain an emergency order, when necessary, and help you try to secure an outcome that can help make the future a little more certain. When you need legal help, call me at (615) 791-8511 or contact me online to schedule a consultation.

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