Navigating Health, Custody, and Visitation In 2021
Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic interrupt work and social life, but it also had a significant impact on family relationships. Beginning with shutdowns in March of 2021, families across the country have struggled to deal with custody battles and visitation over the past year.
For divided families, creating a plan to overcome this situation can help parents manage their relationships with their children’s well-being in mind. If it is not possible for families to quarantine in a single home, navigating public health regulations can be challenging.
Family Safety Precautions
The virus is highly contagious, making children reasonably high risk to contract or spread it within their family. Without identifying long-term effects, even healthy children and adults should err on the side of caution to prevent unknown risks. Those who are immunocompromised or have an underlying respiratory condition have also been identified as high-risk individuals.
Parents of a child with asthma or another underlying condition should discuss the risks and evaluate their situation to fit their needs. It may be necessary to alter custody arrangements to manage their health and safety.
Social distancing is still recommended, but increasing vaccination opportunities may allow families to adjust their plans soon. Since younger children have yet to be included in vaccine plans, it is still wise for families to be conscious of the virus and practice social distancing if any family member is unvaccinated.
Navigating Custody Arrangements
While discussing these concerns with your ex is important, custody plans must be honored unless officially arranged between parents or through a judge’s order. Failing to oblige by the visitation and custody agreements could lead to severe repercussions.
Alternatively, if a COVID-19 exposure or threat is present, a temporary quarantine would be appropriate to avoid the significant health risks associated with the virus.
Valid reasons for challenging custody orders include:
- High-risk family members or children.
- Suspected exposure.
- Displayed symptoms in any family member.
If there are serious health concerns related to your child spending time at their other parent’s home, it could be possible to negotiate temporary alternatives. This situation, however, is not easy to evaluate if conditions of the custody agreements are already in place.
How To Address COVID-19 related Custody Concerns
“As parents, a child’s health and safety should be the number one concern. The pandemic has presented uncharted territories for custody arrangements,” says Jeanette Soltys. Regardless of the situation, observing each parent’s rights is critical to comply with court orders and support the children.
While video chatting and social distancing have become the norm of socialization and work communication, these may be difficult options for parents to consider. In many cases, it can be challenging for parents to agree on conditions regarding custody and visitation when their well-being is in question.
If you have found that your current custody and visitation arrangements are no longer feasible, it may be necessary to involve a mediator or family law attorney to help adjust your plans. Most courts have been reluctant to modify plans based on COVID-19 restrictions. Still, parents should bring valid concerns to the official’s attention if you have difficulty coming to a consensus with your ex. Courts could issue an emergency temporary child custody order in high-risk situations if the child or another family member has serious health concerns.