Navigating Child Custody During the Coronavirus

Custody of children can be a highly contested area of family law. With the heightened concerns for safety, well-being, and health associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are even more focused on providing safety and security for their children. Seastrom, Tuttle, & Murphy’s experienced child custody attorneys can guide you through any challenges to current custody arrangements and parenting plans, and make necessary modifications in light of COVID-19.

How does the Safer At Home Order Impact California Custody Agreements?

California’s Safer At Home Order requires Californians to stay at home unless necessary to leave the home for essential needs. Social distancing and limiting contact with those outside the home have become critical steps in stopping the spread of COVID-19. In an attempt to limit a child’s exposure to illness, parents may be tempted to keep the child in the home they are currently located. While the health and safety of the child is important, so is maintaining relationships between the child and parents.

In regards to child custody issues, parents are generally instructed to maintain current child custody agreements and parenting plans. Emergencies or dire circumstances may arise during periods of widespread illness, but a Safer At Home order does not in itself constitute an emergency. Deviation from any established plans requires approval from the court. Shelter in Place orders leave parents wondering how to protect their children while following executive orders and health department directives. Parents should seek counsel from an experienced Orange County child custody attorney when faced with challenges in adhering to the established plans in light of COVID-19 complications.

Types of Custody and Associated COVID-19 Risks

Often, child custody is thought of in the terms of physical custody of the child and where the child resides. However, legal custody, or the right to make decisions for the child, is extremely important as well, especially with the risk of contracting a serious disease so prevalent. Both legal and physical custody are impacted by Stay at Home orders.

Legal custody refers to parenting decisions involving healthcare, education, and general well-being decisions affecting the child. Often, parents share legal custody. With COVID-19 being so divisive around the world, it is important to review legal custody provisions, and if possible have parents come to an agreement about decision-making at this unprecedented time. If necessary, involving an Irvine child custody attorney can help facilitate these discussions.

Physical custody is the right a parent has to live with the child. Physical custody can be shared between parents, with the child spending significant time with both parents. Visitation schedules allow the child to primarily live with one parent while maintaining a relationship with the other parent. Both visitation schedules and parenting time are made with the best interest of the child in mind, but can evolve over time and change due to circumstances. COVID-19 undoubtedly affects child custody and visitation in light of the need to shelter in place and reducing the spread of disease.

Visitation Concerns During a Pandemic

Children, while resilient, are still at risk for contracting COVID-19 and experiencing health complications when exposed to the disease. This includes exposure to family members who may have come in contact with COVID-19 and can pass the illness throughout the family despite not showing symptoms. Parents with high-risk occupations including medical professionals and emergency services sector employees are at an increased risk for exposure and passing the disease on to family members. Moving children from household to household increases risks for exposure, but adherence to an existing custody order is still required. Working with an experienced Irvine visitation lawyer will help secure your rights as well as protect your child.

Modifying The Parenting Plan During the Coronavirus

During the challenging times of COVID-19, many people focus on physical custody of children and visitation rights of parents. Emphasis is placed on social distancing and avoiding exposure to the disease. It is natural for parents to want to protect their children fiercely from danger. Due to new working schedules for essential workers and the risk of exposure, parents may want to modify the current parenting plan and custody schedule temporarily for the best interest of the child. If parents are able to work out an agreeable modification that promotes the health of the child, they should ensure the courts approve these changes. Working with an experienced Orange County family lawyer to ensure modification agreements are properly approved will keep your parenting plan actions in compliance.

Contact an Orange County Family Law Attorney

During this trying time of uncertainty, experienced family attorneys can help you navigate your child custody agreement and assist in making any necessary modifications. Contact an experienced Irvine family lawyer at Seastrom, Tuttle & Murphy by calling 949-474-0800 or online to schedule a confidential discussion about your child custody and parenting plans today.