How Child Custody Arrangements Have and Have Not Changed with COVID-19
The COVID-19 outbreak has changed a lot in our daily lives, including how parents with child custody schedules are co-parenting.
The courts have made it crystal clear that defying orders or denying visitations simply based upon the current situation or Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s initial Executive “Stay-at-Home” Order during this time potentially result in contempt of court and sanctions. In fact, the Executive Order was specifically amended by Governor Kemp to clarify custodial arrangements, “…nor shall any person using provision of Executive Order 04.02.20.01 as a defense to an action in violation of a judicial order, judgment, custodial arrangement, or decree…”
Every parent is right to have concerns about their child’s health and safety, but communicating worries during this time requires compassion. Parents should clearly communicate, if not over-communicate, to see how both can reduce health risks for their child and maintain custody schedules.
But what happens if parents only disagree? One parent may continue to go to public places, ignore medical advice, work in the medical industry, or have a coworker or roommate who has tested positive for COVID-19. Any one of these scenarios is more than enough for the other parent to raise concerns. So, what can you do as a parent during these concerning times?
Visitations During COVID-19
In this case, you may want to ask your former spouse to agree to a temporary change to your custody schedule. Alternative solutions could include:
- Postponing in-person visits for a while and scheduling for a later date
- Daily phone calls and/or video chatting using FaceTime or Zoom
- Sending letters, cards, and text messages
Not every custody or visitation disagreement can be resolved with a “one size fits all” answer, and each set of facts must be separately analyzed. If issues involving child custody during COVID-19 cannot be resolved on your own, you should contact a local family law attorney like Boudreaux Law Firm for advice.
At this time, the only exception to strictly enforcing child custody and visitation orders during COVID-19 may arise in cases involving long-distance travel, whether via car, air, or other means of transportation. In these cases, courts in Georgia have indicated a willingness to apply a reasonable judgment standard in deciding whether to sanction a parent for failing to comply with a custody or visitation order. The court will look at the age and health of the child, the distance to be traveled, the proposed means of travel, and other case-specific facts to determine whether or not the parent acted reasonably under the circumstances. When out of state travel is necessary, the parties may need to consider the applicable laws or each state in which travel is necessary. If that is not feasible or the state has not directly addressed visitation and custody orders as Georgia has and as more states enact stay-at-home orders, parents may simply need to exercise reasonable judgment if they have child custody schedules living states apart.
AAML & AFCC Guidelines
To provide additional guidance to parents in this situation, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) have provided guidelines. These guidelines provide support to parents on how to manage co-parenting while practicing social distancing.
The guidelines are outlined as such:
- Be Healthy
- Be Mindful
- Be Compliant
- Be Creative
- Be Transparent
- Be Generous
- Be Understanding
If you’re not sure how to approach child custody visitations or have an ex-spouse who is not communicating effectively during COVID-19, then call our helpful, compassionate attorneys at Boudreaux Law Firm in Georgia. We can provide the legal support and advice you need in this difficult time. Call 706-869-1334 today to find the right solution or family law advice you need.