COVID-19: How it May Affect Your Child Custody Orders.
School shutdowns and limitations on non-essential travel have caused confusion and uncertainty for parents with court-ordered custody orders. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
Do I still have to follow an existing custody order?
Yes, custody orders are still in effect. The El Dorado Superior Court, in an information sheet issued April 3, 2020, which can be viewed here, recommends that although the schools are shut down, parents should continue the same schedule in accord with the usual schedule of the relevant school district.
Is traveling to exchange custody of the children permitted?
Under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order, travel required by law enforcement or due to a court order is permitted, and that includes custody orders.
However, in order to comply with the governor’s orders and the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines, parents can agree to change the place of the custody exchange to a safer location, which would be one that would have fewer people congregating and fewer frequently touched surfaces. For example, not a playground, where a child will be tempted to interact with the equipment, but the outer edge of a parking lot where the child can go right from one car to the other.
What about supervised visitation?
If the supervisor for supervised visitation is not available, parents are encouraged to work together to ensure parenting time takes place, such as by finding an alternate supervisor or having video conferences or telephone calls.
Can a parent deny a custody exchange if the parent believes the other parent is not taking adequate precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
El Dorado Superior Court’s information sheet advised that “Unless the parties are restrained from communicating, parents are encouraged to communicate about precautions they are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19. A parent is not permitted to deny parenting time based upon the other parent's unwillingness to discuss their precautionary measures taken, or belief that the other parent's precautions are insufficient.”
The court, however, did not discuss the situation where the parent has knowledge, rather than a belief, that the other parent is not taking sufficient precaution or that the other parent has tested positive for COVID-19, or is ill with the virus. In such situations, it would be advisable to seek medical professionals, perhaps your pediatrician, as well as legal counsel to evaluate the situation and determine what is the best interest of the child and the best course of action for the parents.
Deborah Brown is an attorney with Becker Nelson Center & James who helps clients with a wide variety of family law issues, including divorce, separation, spousal support, child support and custody issues. and domestic violence. She offers limited scope options and full representation in order to best serve her clients’ needs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 295-6400 ext. 112.
Learn more: Watch Kevin James's webinar on Responding to COVID-19: Navigating Employment and Contractual Issues to Minimize Disruption to Your Business.
Discover: What you need to know about the virus-relief stimulus package by reading Alert: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.