Everyone is painfully aware by now of the issues brought about by Coronavirus that have affected daily life. Things that previously came as easily to us as breathing now have a list of complications that need to be maneuvered through to ensure our safety. A chore as mundane as going to the grocery store now means remembering to leave home with a face mask and hand sanitizer, keeping distance from other shoppers.
If you go through all of that just to buy some chicken and a loaf of bread, you can just imagine the logistical nightmare of trying to keep your children safe when dealing with child custody and visitation during a pandemic.
How Covid-19 has complicated visitation
Visitation is a struggle even for veteran coparents who have it down to a science. Unless you are deep into your separation or have gotten beyond your divorce, it’s likely that you’re still struggling to find what works. In the midst of conflicts and running separate households, now you have to figure out how to rework things to make visitation pandemic-proof. It’s a lot to ask and sometimes it just may not be possible.
With a substantial number of working parents falling under the many categories of “essential workers,” it’s probable that at least one parent will end up being at risk for becoming infected with COVID-19. Even worse for some parents is that they work in healthcare and have direct contact with infected patients, knowingly placing their own lives in jeopardy as a natural consequence of their duties.
Parents are finding themselves in the position of having to create procedures for making visitation work for their own situations and comfort levels to handle issues like:
- Changing schedules to reduce travel or potential exposure
- Long distance travel concerns due to limited numbers of rest stops
- A visitation supervisor being unavailable due to social distancing concerns
- Minimizing risk by reducing clothing and personal items traveling between homes
- Handling a virtual school year for Nashville public school students
Child visitation fears have led to “court room” battles
Fear is a substantial motivating factor in most people to take actions they might not have taken under normal circumstances. Throw in the factor of being a parent with a valid concern over his or her child becoming infected with Covid-19 and it explains why courts are seeing requests to modify child custody orders that would have otherwise been unlikely.
A custody modification can be sought if there has been a material change in circumstances. Coronavirus has provided enough of a change for some parents to pursue custody modifications in order to better guard their children’s safety, as well as their own when the at-risk parent is perceived as unwilling to put their child’s best interests first.
While some judges may see an occupation at high risk for COVID-19 as enough to warrant the change in custody alone, some parents have even more “ammunition.” Parents are arguing for temporary sole custody based on the child or themselves having an underlying health condition. Engaging in visitation where the children are in close contact with the at-risk parent puts them at greater risk for becoming infected and potentially ending up on a respirator, or dying.
When faced with the proposition of a child dying, or losing both parents, it makes a judge’s decision slightly less complicated to temporarily modify custody orders. However, judges are also encountering parents being held in contempt of a court order for withholding their children from attending visitation to keep them safe prior to receiving a legal change of custody.
We’ve entered unprecedented times that are requiring thoughtful and strategic solutions to health safety when it comes to visitation. Our innovative child custody attorneys stand ready to help you ensure your children’s wellbeing while maintaining their relationship with their other parent during the Covid-19 crisis. To schedule your consultation with a client-centered Nashville child custody attorney from Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC, we invite you to call our office at 615-391-4200, or to reach out to us through our contact page.
Karla C. Miller has devoted her entire career to the practice of family law in Tennessee. She attended Auburn University and Nashville School of Law, and upon graduation in 1996, she opened her own law firm and has been assisting families throughout Tennessee since then. Learn more about Karla C. Miller here.