Amid the rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic, separated parents who share custody of their children continue to face new challenges in unprecedented ways. Stay-at-home orders have exacerbated the issue of child custody. Some parents have been able to smoothly transition in co-parenting during the pandemic, while others have experienced a more challenging time. As court proceedings have slowed or taken a halt, issues arise when it comes to unsettled custody disputes. Life becomes even more turbulent when parents are concerned about the health and safety of their children. However, there are suggestions that parents can follow to ensure their child has a more natural and routine way to spend time with both parents.
- Follow Court Orders
First, parents should continue to exchange custody of their children according to their court order during the stay-at-home order. There is no precedent law for how to handle these custody issues during these times, as there is likely no pandemic clauses embedded into a custody agreement. Nevertheless, some jurisdictions have advised that custody exchanges pursuant to the order are allowed. Parents should treat private custody arrangements like custody orders, as courts are navigating ways to guide parents in the conflict between the custody order and the stay-at-home order.
2. Parents Should Stay Calm and Act Rationally
Most attorneys will advise their clients to stay calm and act in a manner that will be satisfactory to a judge. Judges will put the best interest of the child first. There is no perfect way to co-parent during these novel times. But what parents can do is act rational and work together for solutions that will protect the health and safety of their children
3. Learning to be Virtual
Many courts have adjusted to tailoring court proceedings to our new virtual world. For example, settlement and status conferences are happening through video calls. Furthermore, courts are utilizing virtual hearings per social distancing guidelines. Courts adjusting to working around the pandemic have allowed some relief for parents in tackling their custody issues. However, learning to be virtual should not end in court, but should also extend to the home. As parents discuss a custody schedule that works for them, parents may also utilize telephonic communication, such as Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype to have contact with their children if exchanges go longer than anticipated.
As society slowing begins to reopen, issues in undertaking child custody will continue to change. We can only hope that courts will address these pressing issues and provide guidance for custody during the pandemic. Henceforward, parents need to be calm, mindful and be able to work together to rationalize what is really best for their children.