Child in a carseat in the backseat of a car

The Dos & Don’ts of Child Custody and Visitation During COVID-19

Sharing custody of a child can be difficult at any time but is particularly more complicated during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, Southern California was under strict quarantine measures, and many cities and counties were under certain restrictions.

This summer, those restrictions started to lighten, and more businesses opened back up. However, this past holiday season brought on a resurge of COVID-19 cases, and with that brought stricter lockdown restrictions and are challenging child custody issues once again.

Do: Follow the Government’s Recommendations for Stay-at-Home Orders

As of December 3, 2020, the State of California implemented a Regional Stay Home Order. The state is recommending that individuals stay at home as much as possible to stop the spread of COVID-19, “except as necessary to conduct activities associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure, as required by law, or as specifically permitted in this order.” You should do follow these orders to do your part in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Don’t: Break Your Child Custody Agreement

Note that the Regional Stay Home Order states: “except as necessary to conduct required by law…” This means that you should still follow your child custody agreement as it’s been required by law, in a binding document, for you to share custody of your child. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which we’ll dive into below. But by default, you should always do your best to follow your child custody agreement as closely as possible.

Do: Use Common Sense

If you, your child, or your co-parent are diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19, use common sense to come to an agreement together to do what’s best for your child. If that means that you switch weeks of custody or rearrange your schedules a day or two, then you may do so. If you see a doctor and they recommend quarantine for a certain time period, then you should follow your doctor’s request and let your co-spouse know you are following medical orders.

Emergencies and dire situations allow you to make amends and changes to your child custody agreement. However, the Regional Stay Home Order is not an emergency in-and-of-itself. If you’re unsure if your child should leave your home, speak to your co-parent and come to an agreement, if you can, to do what is best for your child.

Don’t: Force Your Child to Choose Which Parent They’d Like to Stay With

This has been our standard advice even before the pandemic started. When the court signed off on your child custody agreement, they ensured your child’s best interest was in mind. You should continue to do your best to follow your custody agreement during this time, and do not force your child to choose which parent they’d prefer to stay with. Don’t place this stressful decision on your child, especially as the world as they know it has already drastically changed. If you and your co-parent can do your part and keep your child safe, protected, and maintain as much normalcy as possible for your child, they will be better off for it.

Do: Speak Up if You Believe Your Co-Parent is With-holding Your Child From You

While we just discussed using common sense, it’s also important for you to speak up if you believe that your co-parent is keeping your child from you for too long. It may be easy for them to claim that your child is sick, or was exposed to someone with COVID-19, but they should not keep your child for an extended period of time without reason. The CDC is recommending a quarantine of 14-days after exposure. If your co-parent is claiming to keep your child for longer than a few weeks due to exposure, it may be a good time to speak to your lawyer about your options.

If you have questions and would like to speak to one of our lawyers today, please contact us. Our offices are open, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you.