How to Handle Child Custody & Visitation Orders During COVID-19
If you are concerned about a parenting time or a child custody matter during the COVID-19 outbreak, consult an experienced family law attorney today.
Despite improved management of the coronavirus pandemic and an impressive vaccine rollout, divorced or unmarried parents are still concerned about whether they should continue to comply with a custody arrangement or visitation order if it conflicts with a lockdown order in their area or because of a strong belief that a new romantic partner in your ex’s life, may elevate your child’s risk of contracting the disease. One parent does not have the right to take unilateral action. Full lockdown or modified shelter-in-place orders do not override the terms of your divorce agreement or child custody orders. By failing to honor or comply with a previously agreed-upon court order, you may find yourself in contempt of court and/or have your parenting time reduced.
However, parents are free to agree on a temporary modification to parenting time. Rather than violate a custody agreement or risk parental alienation, a parent can also ask a judge to enforce the child custody arrangements or modify child support aspects to reflect the current parental living or financial situation.
Don’t forget, your child’s safety and best interest are most important.
In New Jersey, visitation and child custody orders are put in place, with the child’s best interests in mind. As most ex-spouses have different ideas on the best way to raise their child, it may be hard to resist a chance to gain an advantage over your co-parent if the opportunity were to present itself. Parenting time agreements are created with the support of New Jersey family law attorneys and the court during the custody arrangement to ensure that the child’s wellbeing is a priority during the separation process. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has added additional financial and social stress to the family dynamics, changing or drastically altering the parenting time agreements, uncertainties around basic family health and safety have added a new dramatic element to the mix.
Now is not the time to be petty or bicker. If anything, it is time to work together as a team to ensure your child’s safety. If stressful interactions come up, keep this guiding question at the center of the conversation: What will help keep our child safe and grounded?
Benefits of Alternate Dispute Resolution To Reach an Amicable Custody Agreement
If your co-parent seems to be acting out of genuine concern for your children rather than simple vindictiveness, it may help seek outside professional help. This might even involve both of you talking to a child specialist or pediatrician.
Rather than going to court, co-parents may want to negotiate limited changes to parenting time. By agreeing to regular electronic visits/chats via Zoom, Facetime, or WhatsApp for a high-risk parent or shifting parenting time to a specific time in the future, enables a parent to make up for the time missed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. If co-parents cannot find a suitable arrangement, they can seek assistance through mediation with a family law attorney. Crafting their own arrangement allows parents to avoid the stress and uncertainty of asking a judge to reallocate parenting time.
Justifying an Emergency Court Order to Modify a Custody or Visitation Mandate
It is advisable to consult a knowledgeable child custody attorney to determine if there has been a significant change of circumstances since the original custody arrangement was created, serious enough to warrant an emergency hearing to modify an existing order. Such as if:
- a parent has had substantial exposure to COVID-19,
- a parent knowingly fails to follow CDC based guidelines issued by the New Jersey Health Department,
- the child has asthma, is immunocompromised/suppressed, or
- there is an extreme risk to the child’s health or well-being.
Such negligent action or serious health-related circumstances could form the basis for establishing that there is a likelihood of immediate, inimical, and irreparable harm to a child to get an emergency order, which specifies whether they are asking for a modification of a child’s legal custody or physical custody, or both. If a judge agrees that there is a likelihood of such harm to the child, an emergency order for custody will be granted.
Contact a Linden, NJ Child Custody Arrangement Attorney Today
If you are concerned about a parenting time or a child custody matter during the COVID-19 outbreak, you should consult an experienced child custody attorney who can advise and represent you in working out an agreement with your co-parent and enforce your rights.
Family law attorney Edward S. Cooper, Esq. takes pride in serving parents from local Union County communities, including Linden, Plainfield, Westfield, Union, Elizabeth, Scotch Plains, and across New Jersey. Attorney Cooper is passionate about client service and makes returning phone calls, emails, and other inquiries his top priority. Our firm believes in keeping our clients involved and informed throughout the legal process, particularly when the issues are as important as securing an appropriate custody agreement for your family.