The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many facets of everyday life into disarray, including child custody and visitation orders. With schools shut down, travel bans in place and many jobs either furloughed or mandated into telecommunication, co-parents and their kids have had to adjust quickly to new custody and visitation arrangements. If you and your child’s co-parent are not married, then perhaps you are experiencing this disruption as well.
Custody in the time of coronavirus
Parents who work in the health care field or other essential industries face a heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus. As a result, one co-parent might petition the court for temporary physical custody to limit the child’s exposure. This can quickly become contentious, especially if parents disagree about the severity or risk of exposure. Even if parents do agree to limit visitation, this can be emotionally painful for both parent and child.
In other cases, children cannot travel to visit their other parent because of the stay-at-home order imposed by the governor and the nonessential air travel bans currently in place. One parent might disagree with the other about the child’s living arrangements and may want to travel to visit them in person.
Ideas for how to handle custody and visitation
Families throughout New York are struggling to adapt their custody and visitation arrangements to the new way of life, just as you are. As you navigate your family’s new circumstances, try to:
- Remain flexible. Understand that this situation is temporary, and that things will eventually return to normal.
- Communicate frequently with your co-parent. It is crucial for each parent to have up-to-date information about their children’s whereabouts and to know how their children are doing.
- Work with your family law attorney to draft an updated parenting schedule. Your lawyer understands the state’s custody laws in depth and can help you decide your next steps.
- If necessary, proceed to court to petition for a new custody or visitation order. This is usually best as a last step after every other attempt to resolve the issue has failed. But a new court order may be necessary for the best interests of your children in this uncertain time.