Child Custody and Visitation in the Coronavirus Age
April 10, 2020 | Coronavirus
Necessary Coronavirus COVID-19 restrictions have taken everything familiar about life, such as work schedules, family routines, yes – even child custody and visitation and turned them upside-down.
How can you deal with these issues without adding more stress to a stressful situation?
Most parenting time plans have an every-other-weekend/every-other-holiday division.
Parents in self-imposed or doctor-recommended quarantine are probably the biggest impediment to a timesharing arrangement.
It might not be safe, or even possible, for a child to leave or visit certain places.
Visitation restrictions might be a problem as well.
For example, many timesharing agreements require exchanges to take place at an area fast-food restaurant or other public place.
For the most part, these places are closed. Similarly, if a parent was limited to supervised visitation at a social worker’s office or a relative’s home, such visitation might be temporarily unavailable.
Parenting Time Solutions
Generally, crisis brings out the best in people or the worst in people.
So, coronavirus-related parenting (child custody) time problems are usually either very easy to resolve, or excruciatingly difficult to resolve.
Avoid unilateral action unless it’s an absolute last resort.
Judges could harshly punish residential parents who cut off contact between children and non-residential parents.
Most states have co-parenting laws. Such unilateral action flies in the face of these laws.
Under normal circumstances, informal custody and visitation side agreements, even if they are in writing, are unenforceable in family court.
However, these are not normal times.
So a written agreement which temporarily modifies the parenting time division might hold up in court.
That’s especially true if the changes are relatively minor, like changing a pickup location from a closed school to a parent’s house.
An agreed motion to modify is usually best.
Typically, an attorney can draft an agreed parenting time alteration, have both spouses sign it, and submit it to the court on the same day.
Judges usually sign agreed orders without requiring a hearing.
If the parents do not agree 100 percent, mediation usually helps.
These sessions are rather informal, so attorneys can schedule them on a few days’ notice. Assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is about 90 percent successful.
Agreed motions or side-agreements are not always possible.
If you feel the current parenting time schedule endangers the child’s physical health, an emergency motion to modify is usually best.
Judges can usually hear these matters without violating social distancing requirements.
COVID-19 and Playground Injuries
On a related note, many parents allow children to play on homeowners’ association-maintained or landlord-owned playground equipment.
Children could get seriously hurt in these situations. Strangulation and head injuries are the most common hazards.
Hoodie ties and other clothing items often get caught in monkey bars or other playground equipment.
A few minutes of hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) is sufficient to cause a permanent brain injury.
Even if children are only a few feet off the ground, their fragile skulls usually cannot withstand the force of a fall.
That’s especially true if the play equipment is built over solid ground or concrete, as opposed to rubber or something soft.
Generally, landowners have a duty to prevent fall injuries. The extent of the duty usually depends on the relationship between the victim and the property owner.
Mediation also effectively resolves many personal injury cases. This litigation alternative is not just easy to schedule. It also saves time, which reduces litigation costs.
And, meditation gives the participants more control over the outcome. Other litigation alternatives include mini-trials and arbitration proceedings.
At Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, we do our best to make your life easier. If you have a legal issue or question, call us today.
We are open for business during COVID-19.
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