COVID-19: NAVIGATING CUSTODY DURING A PANDEMIC

May 1, 2020 Child Custody

Please note: This information is accurate as of April 28, 2020.  If you have legal questions, it is always best to get specific legal advice from a lawyer.

Co-parenting can be difficult even in the best of times.  Many separated or divorced parents now face the added challenge of navigating custody issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government, along with many state governments, have asked residents to follow social distancing guidelines.  In California, Governor Gavin Newsom on March 19, 2020, issued a statewide order for all residents to “stay at home” amid the Coronavirus outbreak. This order is in place until further notice.

You may be asking yourself many questions about how to co-parent in light of COVID-19, including whether you should continue with visitation exchanges.  On April 1, 2020, the Superior Court of California, County of Orange issued Administrative Order No. 003 specifically addressing that COVID-19 is not a reason to deny parenting time.  The Order states that “unless otherwise ordered by the court, parents are considered fit to care for their children and make decisions regarding the day-to-day aspects of parenting while the children are in their care.  This day-to-day care includes following all Health Authority and County Public Health directives regarding social distancing and sanitation-related measures (such as frequent handwashing).”

Courts are encouraging parents to work together during this time.  While there may be cases which would allow for a parent to deny the other parent parenting time during this pandemic, a parent’s belief that the other parent cannot adequately protect the child(ren) from the virus is not enough. All child custody and visitation orders from the court remain in full force and effect until and unless modified by the court.

These are unprecedented times which has caused family law courts across the state to temporarily close with some exceptions.  One exception is for emergency child custody requests that involve an imminent threat of injury or death to a child.   If you have any other questions regarding Child Custody and Visitation because of COVID-19, or if you need to file an Ex Parte Request for Order relating to child custody, contact Seastrom Tuttle & Murphy.