Child Custody and the “New Normal”

April 2, 2020 / 8:08 pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives seemingly overnight. We should not expect it stop short of effecting child custody disputes and possibly send them into a tailspin.

Scenario 1: I received the inevitable call from a client who was supposed to receive her children for a scheduled weekend visit but the custody exchange never took place. Her ex-husband demanded that she answer a set of questions regarding her compliance with social distancing practices on the pretense of making sure she was taking adequate coronavirus precautions. She responded to some of his questions, but he proceeded to unilaterally cancel the court ordered visit anyway.

Scenario 2: I received the inevitable call from a client who was supposed to bring her daughter to her ex-husband for a weekend visit. My client has concerns about her daughter who suffers from respiratory ailments, including uncontrolled asthma. My client, herself, suffers from several ailments that place her at high risk regarding COVID-19. She and her daughter are practicing 100% social isolation and have not left the house for two weeks. Her question to me: do I break isolation by bringing my child to see her father as is court ordered?

​Why were these calls inevitable?

Because, although both scenarios are opposite in nature, parents who are subject to custody orders issued prior to the coronavirus pandemic may find that the current court orders seemingly run afoul of the CDC’s guidelines as well as local, State and Federal authorities’ orders to stay home and maintain isolation.

Judge Jordan B. Yeager of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County developed the following language that may by written into custody orders:

“Mother and Father shall agree to adhere to CDC recommended protocols for COVID-19 (wash your hands before touching the child, clean surfaces with Lysol or other appropriate disinfectant, social distancing), to practice social isolation in their homes, and to not take the child out to public places. All these provisions will be followed until advised that it is safe to revert back to normal practices.”

What should you do?

Coronavirus emergency notwithstanding, parents still have a right to see their children and custody orders must still be followed. However, if your custody order is at odds with what you are hearing from the Governor of your State or from the President, or the CDC, or your doctor, etc. or if you are being denied custody time with your children on the pretext of the coronavirus emergency, then it’s time to call a skilled and experienced family law attorney.

Need Help? Contact Penglase & Benson.

Amir M. Stark, Esquire of the law firm of Penglase & Benson, Inc. practices family law in Bucks and all surrounding counties. He is available for telephone consultations during and throughout the coronavirus emergency and may be reached on his personal cell phone during this time at (215) 275-2919.

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