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Developing News: Custody Challenges due to COVID-19

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Infectious disease and parenting concerns have taken center stage as the COVID-19 pandemic settles in around the world.  In the United States, anxiety over the virus is causing a myriad of problems between parents, partners, and children.

The global pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 is reshuffling the economy, revising lifetime dreams, and ending life altogether.  As individuals, families, government, and society struggle to comprehend the changes, almost all of us are working on the fly to rebuild life around social isolation, health fears, and financial hardship.  Add custody difficulties—or just concern for the wellbeing of children—and panic is quick to rise.

With COVID-19 now a leading cause of death in this country, concern over stopping the transmission of the virus—and protecting loved ones from infection—is a primary concern.  Early media reports suggested children were less likely to suffer serious impacts from the virus and could instead be frequent asymptomatic carriers of the infection.  More recent models suggest pediatric cases of COVID-19 could tax available pediatric care units, even as fewer children than adults become seriously ill.

There is concern about the impact of COVID-19 at all age ranges.  When it is time to drop your child off at the house of your co-parent for the week, concerns about social distancing and the rules of the house take on outsize importance.

As described in The New York Times, one mom who went to pick up her two children for her parenting weekend was met with a court order granting her ex-husband temporary sole custody of their children.  Why?  Mom is an internist who worked at a hospital.  Her ex- had convinced a judge the children were safe with him, and not with mom.  The order was reversed when the mother agreed to practice telemedicine that would not require her to treat potentially infectious patients in person.

Other frontline workers have been similarly caught between a court and a co-parent who insists their children are not safe with someone who could have been, or might become, exposed.

And the controversy does not begin and end with healthcare workers and first responders.  Legal conflict arises when families who are sharing children do not have similar views about social distancing and visitors.  While one parent and their partner may carefully follow rules of social distancing and keep clear distance, the other parent and their partner may believe that entertaining at home is still within bounds.

The Maryland Judiciary on Matters Concerning Children and Families issued a Statement from the Maryland Judiciary on Matters Concerning Children & Families.  All court orders concerning child custody, parenting and child support remain in full force and effect unless the parents agree otherwise.  If parents are unable to agree on modified schedule, the court order controls.

In the US, courts are doing their best to support existing parenting plans and create an environment that works for children and their parents.  In a Canadian matter, Justice A. Pazaratz was asked to rule on an emergency motion raised by one parent about the inability of the other parent to keep their child safe.  He wrote (in denying the action), that he hopes the parents would “renew their efforts to address vitally important health and safety issues for their child in a more conciliatory and productive manner.”

Judge Pazaratz closed the ruling noting, “None of us have ever experienced anything like this.  We are all going to have to try a bit harder – for the sake of our children.”

Speak to a skilled Baltimore divorce attorney

When you have questions about your parenting plan or a custody proceeding, the Law Offices of Allyson B. Goldscher, LLC offers knowledgeable legal service and dedicated personal service. If you have questions about family law, we have the answers you need.  Contact us or call 410-602-9522 today.