The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to a virtual lockdown of the state of Ohio. Current estimates call for hundreds of deaths in this state and many more critically ill. To halt the spread, Governor DeWine has shut down nonessential businesses and ordered people to stay at home.
These dramatic actions were clearly taken to benefit public health. However, they can also impact child custody orders and the ability of parents to comply with them. At Lawrence Law Office, we are watching closely to see how this pandemic has impacted our clients, and we want to share with the wider public what we are seeing.
Complying with Child Custody Orders Can Be Difficult
The current stay-at-home order prohibits most activity outside the home. However, there is an exception for complying with a custody agreement, which qualifies as “essential travel” and is allowed. Nevertheless, we anticipate problems with complying with child custody orders arising if someone becomes sick.
For example, your ex might be having flu-like symptoms, which is a clear sign that he or she could have the novel coronavirus. To protect your children, you probably both agree that the child should not visit. But does this parent get makeup time with the children? And when do they get to see them? When they want? At a later date you both agree to? If your child custody order is silent on these issues, then there could be a problem.
If someone in your home is sick, then transporting the children is also a problem because even asymptomatic children can be carriers of the virus. You don’t need your children introducing the virus into a new household, so you decide it is best they stay home. However, the other parent might wrongly believe you are trying to “deny” visitation when what you are really doing is trying to protect your ex’s health. Can they haul you into court?
And what if your ex, who has the children, suddenly announces that someone in the house is sick? What if this illness lasts weeks and months? Is your ex trying to illegally deny you custody?
Your Drop Off Location Could Be Closed
Many parents swap custody at a certain drop off location. Given the lockdown, these areas could now be closed.
For example, some of our clients have picked up their children at school, but the schools have been shut since mid-March. Where do you pick up your children if the parenting plan designates the school as the location?
The same is true of businesses. You might pick up and drop off your child at the local McDonald’s, which is now closed. Are you supposed to just wait in the parking lot for the other parent?
Hopefully, parents can work together amicably during this difficult time, but some can’t. If you have a history of domestic violence, you might have used the school as a convenient pick up and drop off location so you could avoid seeing the other parent. Now it will be very difficult to avoid each other. Please contact our law office if you are arguing about visitation.
Who Makes Medical Decisions?
If your children are sick, then they might need invasive medical treatment. Admittedly, the odds of this happening are very low. Most young children are not showing any symptoms even if they get the virus. Very few are ending up in the ICU or dying. Nevertheless, some have gotten sick and might need medical care.
If both parents have legal custody, then both have a say in their child’s medical treatment. For routine illnesses like the common cold or flu, one parent might be authorized to take their child to the doctor and administer medicine without the other parent’s consent. Conversely, if the child needed surgery or something invasive, then both parents typically are notified.
But where does COVID-19 fall in these guidelines? Is it a routine illness or something that both parents should have a say in? Ideally, you will keep the other parent in the loop if you suspect your child is sick. But what if the other parent has custody and he or she doesn’t tell you that your child has been admitted to the hospital for the coronavirus?
Please Contact Lawrence Law Office Today
If you are struggling to comply with a court order during this difficult time, you have our sympathy. Our team of attorneys is here to help you think through your options. This pandemic will soon end, but we want to protect our client’s rights (and health) during this time. Contact our law firm today to schedule a consultation.