At this point, the new coronavirus has affected the majority of our lives, whether directly or indirectly. Unfortunately for many divorced and single co-parents, they are now facing the challenge of negotiating child custody/visitation terms in the wake of quarantines and stay-at-home orders from Governor Tom Wolf to stymie the spread of COVID-19.
How has COVID-19 affected child custody agreements?
Though many parents would like to simply obey these orders and stay inside with their families, if their former spouse or ex-partner has custody of their children, it becomes harder and harder to do so. That being said, of course, there are few things more important to parents than spending time with and raising their children, which is why the new coronavirus has left many scratching their heads, wondering about the next step forward.
In many cases, parents are tempted to simply refuse to turn their child over to his/her other parent to ensure their child is not exposed to the virus. Unfortunately, this can have serious repercussions in the future, as parents who choose to withhold their children from their former spouse, ignoring their child custody agreement, can risk punishment/sanctions by the court as a result.
That being said, most child custody/support orders do not include details regarding the proper procedure in the event of a pandemic, which makes these cases very hard for courts to decide. Of course, there is nothing malicious about simply wanting to protect your child from exposure to such a virus, however, the law clearly states that child custody agreements are binding, and to violate them is, essentially, to violate the law. Though it not yet entirely clear what will happen to parents who choose to violate these agreements, one can imagine it may result in a reduction of child custody or visitation for the violating parent. This is an evolving area of the law that is changing on a daily basis as we all want to protect children.
Unique Co-Parenting Disputes Arising From COVID-19
As time goes on, we are beginning to see more and more unique coronavirus-related co-parenting circumstances and disputes, some of which are as follows:
- Parents disagreeing on how much time they deserve with their children in their temporary custody agreement.
- One parent thinking the other isn’t being safe by failing to practice social distancing as recommended by the CDC, potentially putting their child at risk and can they mandate that the other parent take certain precautions.
- In situations where one parent cannot see their child because he/she is, or may be, infected, he/she may argue about how much parenting time he/she is owed and the ability to seek make-up time.
- One parent does not want to meet with the other to exchange their kids because they are scared of potential infection.
- One parent does not want to drop their child off in a home with an immuno-compromised person.
- One parent doesn’t want to drop their child off with a former partner/spouse who is a nurse or works in a hospital/any other place where the potential for infection is high.
What should I do if my spouse refuses to follow our parenting time agreement?
As physical courtrooms close for all “non-essential” matters, such as divorce hearings, child custody/support matters, and more, many cases are moving to hold these hearings over the phone, which is proving to be a viable means of negotiation. The Law Offices of Ilkhanoff & Silverstein has experienced mediators, and we are capable of working with both you and your former spouse/partner to create an unbiased, common-sense, and temporary child custody agreement to keep you, your co-parent, and your children safe through the duration of this pandemic. If this sounds like something that may work for you, simply give our knowledgeable Pennsylvania firm a call today. We are here to help. All you have to do is ask. We can be engaged for short or lengthy conferences on these issues.
Contact Ilkhanoff & Silverstein
If you are in the midst of a child custody dispute in these uncertain times, please do not hesitate to speak with our compassionate mediators to learn more about how we can help you through the process. Contact the Law Offices of Ilkhanoff & Silverstein today.