Custody and Visitation during Coronavirus

March 21, 2020
Louis Sternberg

During these difficult times, parents have frequently asked the same question – what to do about custody and visitation during the Coronavirus pandemic? Does I have to provide the child for visitation? Am I entitled to my visitation during the Coronavirus?

In an attempt to preemptively address these issues, the Texas Supreme Court granted an emergency order specifying that “for  purposes  of  determining  a  person’s  right  to  possession  of  and  access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the original published school schedule shall control in all instances.”  As of publication of this article, neither Governor Cuomo nor the New York State courts have issued any similar orders.   

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) has weighed in with their suggestions and recently published an article entitled Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Divorced / Separated and Sharing Custody of Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  This insightful guide should be read and considered by any parents facing the difficult decisions surrounding parenting and visitation issues during the Coronavirus outbreak.  To expand upon several of the AAML suggestions:

  • Honesty and communication between parents is absolutely essential.  If you determine that you are not going to make the child available for visitation, notify the other parent, ideally in writing.  Do so politely, respectfully and properly explain the reasoning.
  • Additional communication between the child and the other party is similarly urged.  If the other party is unable to visit with the child in person, it may be wise to offer more frequent skype / video chat or phone calls.
  • The offer of make up time may be the critical factor that appeases the other party and discourages subsequent litigation. 

While the AAML article urges compliance with all court orders, a few key issues must also be considered:

  • Is the child otherwise healthy? Extra precautions must be taken if the child has a weakened immune system.
  • What are the pick up and drop off arrangements?  While many orders provide for pick up and drop off in public locations, it might be wiser to exchange the child at the homes of the parties.
  • Will allowing for the visit expose the child to anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19?
  • Is there anyone in either home who has traveled outside of the country, especially to regions particularly impacted by Coronavirus?
  • In there anyone in either home who is especially at risk for serious complications if they get the virus?

Lastly, all parties are urged to remember that the child’s needs must come first.