Parenting During a Pandemic The COVID-19 Impact on Custody and Visitation

Parenting During a Pandemic: The COVID-19 Impact on Custody and Visitation

Parenting after a divorce means setting up custody and visitation arrangements. At the end of the divorce, a judge signs off on a parenting plan that includes a visitation schedule and states what type of custody the parents have. For example, Darlene wanted her children to see their dad, Max, as often as possible. However, Max works in a hospital that cares for COVID-19 patients. Darlene has valid concerns about whether to allow the kids to visit Max. This is especially true for their youngest son, Dax, whose severe asthma puts him in the high-risk category for COVID-19 complications. As Darlene and Max struggle to work out their new lives, they face unique situations and uncharted waters.

Child Custody During COVID-19

Generally, there are two basic types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Each type can be split into two more categories: joint and sole (or primary).

A parent with sole legal custody makes essential decisions for the children. Parents with joint legal custody share in decision making.

Physical custody relates to where a child will live. In a sole custody arrangement, the child lives with one parent and visits the other. Joint custody means the child lives with both parents.

A public health emergency like COVID-19 might affect custody. Parents with joint legal custody may disagree on how to handle the children’s quarantine. A parent with only visitation also faces tough decisions, especially when the parent with primary physical custody refuses to allow visitation at all. Finally, a parent with visitation-only rights may refuse to return the children to the parent with primary custody after a visit.

However, California judges expect parents to follow child custody and visitation orders in most situations.

Reasons Visitation Might Change

You may be reluctant to send your child to his or her other parent’s house for some excellent reasons. For example,

  • Your child may have a serious, underlying medical condition that makes COVID-19 more dangerous.
  • You may fear that the other parent has COVID-19 or may be exposed to COVID-19.
  • The other parent may not be taking quarantine seriously, which could expose your children to unnecessary risks.

Also, you may be afraid to travel when stay-at-home orders are in effect. Transferring children from parent to parent for visitation becomes even more complicated when parents live far apart.

Handling Custody and Visitation Issues

It’s best when parents can agree on making temporary changes to their custody and visitation arrangements. When this is not possible, you may ask the court to sign an order temporarily altering your parenting plan. As long as courts and government offices stay closed, temporary orders may be difficult to get.

In the meantime, here are some things you can do to deal with custody and visitation issues:

  • Discuss postponing visits and suggest potential make-up dates.
  • Increase non-physical contact, like making phone calls and sending cards to stay in touch.
  • Use technology like FaceTime and Zoom to set up “virtual” visits.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about your child’s health issues and how to minimize risk.

If your ex is refusing to allow visitation, and you do not agree, talk to an attorney about making some temporary changes. Keep track of communications with your children’s other parent. Also, keep a calendar showing days you were denied visitation and why. You may need this information to prove your point to the judge.

Remember that this is a stressful time for everyone, including your children. The best way to handle disruptions in custody and visitation is to stay calm and get help when you need it. 

Call If You Have a Concern About Your Custody and Visitation

No matter where you are in the divorce process, COVID-19 will affect your custody and visitation plans. Talk to an experienced California divorce attorney today.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.