The COVID-19 pandemic has effected nearly all aspects of life.  This includes court proceedings, which are now mostly conducted remotely via computer or other digital means.  A common question among individuals that are subject to a custody order of court regarding their child or children is whether custody or custody orders of court are modified or somehow changed because of COVID-19.  In general, custody orders and the terms contained in such orders have not changed because of COVID-19.  Courts still require parents to follow and abide by the terms set forth in the custody orders of court, including completing custody exchanges and following the established custody schedule.

However, there are instances in which COVID-19 does have an effect on custody and custody orders of court.  Although custody orders of court must be followed, the court still expects the parents and the children to comply with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the state, and the county requirements for COVID-19, including travel restrictions, social distancing, and mask obligations. Below are a few additional questions and answers to help you navigate this topic.

What if my ex is not abiding by the COVID-19 requirements of the state or county?
If a parent is not abiding by the COVID-19 requirements of the state or county, the other parent may seek relief from the court to compel compliance with the requirements.  Furthermore, if a child or parent has health issues or concerns, a parent may seek further relief from the court to guarantee that all precautions are being followed by the other parent to protect the safety of the child and the parent’s well-being.

What if my ex’s work situation puts us at a higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19?
If a parent’s employment or work situation results in high risk for that parent to become infected with COVID-19 and thereby infect the child or children, parents may want to be proactive and have discussions on modifying custody while the pandemic is ongoing to provide for the safest custody alternative possible.  If an agreement cannot be reached in this regard, a parent may wish to seek court intervention to protect the child or children.

Is it appropriate to present a custody issue relating to COVID-19 to the court?
Knowing when to present a custody issue relating to COVID-19 to the court requires thoughtful legal analysis and reasoning.  Presenting a request to the court that is without merit or contrary to the child’s best interest can result in a negative inference resulting against the parent pursuing relief, as the court may believe that such parent is trying to interfere with the other parent’s custody rights.  We highly advise you to lean on an experienced domestic litigation attorney to guide you through the questions and issues as to custody and COVID-19.

While there is a lot to consider regarding custody and COVID-19, it is comforting to know there are legal professionals with the right experience available to help you every step of the way. To learn more about what Wilder Mahood McKinley & Oglesby can do for you , contact us online or call our office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 412-261-4040.

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