The holidays are coming up soon. This means that parents who are sharing custody of their children are working out exactly what visitation will look like based on their court-ordered agreements.
However, COVID-19 may be altering their plans. Parents may be dealing with issues like:
- The child having to travel to another part of the state, or another state altogether, to visit their parent
- One parent living in a COVID-19 hotspot
- One parent had COVID-19 or is currently experiencing symptoms
- One parent is not being careful about COVID-19 and could be putting the child in danger
- One parent is immunocompromised and in isolation
- There may be a second wave and more shelter-in-place orders
All of these problems are new and complicated, and they may be even more difficult if the courts are closed down or backed up with cases because of the nationwide lockdowns this past spring.
If you’re worried about COVID-19 and your child’s holiday visitation schedule, then there are steps you can take to work it out with your co-parent, and then go directly to the court to ensure it is legally binding.
Learning about this issue will help parents decide what to do at this time, ensuring that their actions are in full compliance with their court-ordered child custody agreements.
Can You Refuse Holiday Visitation Because of COVID-19?
The first thing to keep in mind is that you should never stop following a child custody agreement, even because of COVID-19. For instance, you can’t just decide to refuse visitation. If you do, your co-parent could take you to court and you may lose some visitation time, have to pay your co-parent’s attorney’s fees, and be held in contempt by the court because you didn’t follow the visitation orders.
If COVID-19 and holiday visitation present some risk to your child, then what you should do is reach out to your attorney and ask them what the best course of action is in this case.
Your attorney may recommend that you communicate with your co-parent, ideally in some written form, like an email, so that you have it on record. In your communication, it’s wise to be as rational as possible, explaining your concerns and how you believe you’re doing what’s best for your child. Typically, it’ll be easier to make an agreement if you use logic and you don’t accuse your co-parent of wrongdoing or get combative.
If your co-parent is unwilling to talk to you respectfully and work out a temporary arrangement, then your attorney will need to take the steps to formally modify your child custody agreement without your co-parent’s input. They will explain to the judge how your co-parent is putting your child’s health at risk because of COVID-19 and request a change.
In an extreme case where a co-parent has COVID-19 or is acting recklessly – for instance, they’re going into stores without a mask on or having large gatherings at their house – then you should contact your lawyer right away to see if this would qualify as a situation where you could file emergency child custody modification forms.
The court will look at what’s in the best interest of the child and then make a decision about holiday visitation schedules. While parents don’t always get what they request, having a lawyer on your side will make it much more likely that you’ll see a favorable outcome.
Typically, co-parents will recognize that their child’s health is of the utmost importance, and they will act accordingly, as emotionally difficult as the situation may be.
Modifying Visitation During COVID-19
When working out holiday visitation during COVID-19, you can keep your child safe in a few ways. If your co-parent lives in another state, and you normally fly there with your child for a visit, you may be able to drive there instead. If your co-parent has COVID-19 or is immunocompromised, you could do a telephone or Zoom call instead so that your child still gets to spend time with both parents during the holidays. You could also host a socially distanced, small gathering with only immediate family members who have tested negative for COVID-19 and invite your co-parent to join in on the celebration. Children usually want to spend the holidays with both of their parents, and these options will give them the opportunity to do just that.
Do Shelter-in-Place Orders Affect Child Custody?
While shelter-in-place orders may prevent people from leaving the house for nonessential trips, these orders do not stop parents from visiting their children. If there is a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall and winter and shelter-in-place orders come back, you don’t have to be worried that you won’t be able to see your children as long as you have a legal custody agreement in place.
Finding a Family Law Attorney
If you are concerned about COVID-19 and your child’s holiday visitation schedule, then you should contact a family law attorney to figure out the next steps to take. They will let you know how to handle the situation and work out a legal agreement that will put your child’s health and safety above everything else. If you find someone with several years of experience who has dealt with child custody and holiday visitation before, then you will be in good hands.
Contact Boudreaux Hunter & Associates, LLC
Do you want to change your holiday visitation schedule due to COVID-19? Then one of the experienced family law attorneys at Boudreaux Hunter & Associates, LLC is here to help. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and find out how we can help you.