One of the many ways that the Covid-19 pandemic has upended families is that it has thrown many custody and visitation situations into disarray. In addition to worrying about the health of their children, some parents have the added stress of adhering to their visitation schedules in light of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and other novel restrictions that have come as a result of the unprecedented pandemic.
Many parents are surprised to find out that, despite Covid-19-related restrictions, child custody orders are still legally binding exactly as originally ordered; parents who violate their visitation schedule without the consent of the other parent or without a temporary custody order can be found in contempt and be sanctioned by the court. Sanctions for violating a custody and visitation orders can be severe, including loss of custody.
However, adjusting a visitation order in the middle of a pandemic is problematic for several reasons. First, some courts have been forced to close or restrict cases to only those that are deemed “essential.” Second, over the course of the pandemic even courts that are open are experiencing a significant backlog of cases that can greatly increase the time it takes to get a hearing.
Another option is for parents to work together to come up with an altered visitation schedule that works for all parties. Parents with a strained relationship can benefit from the help of a family mediator to create a workable visitation schedule that addresses both parents’ concerns and limits the risk of possible exposure to the child.
Tips On Altering Your Visitation Schedule During Pandemic Restrictions
When parents agree to sit down and discuss a workable visitation schedule, the best way to get started is to consider the concerns you have for your child’s health as well as what practical alterations can be made that create as little disruption to your child’s life as possible.
Some questions to consider are:
- What will happen if the child gets sick?
- Which parent’s home will be used to quarantine the child during their illness?
- What if one or both parents become infected? Is there a back-up plan for someone else to care for your child?
- If your child’s school has reopened, are both parents comfortable with sending their child to school?
- Is remote learning an option? If so, which parent will be primarily responsible for supervising their child’s online education needs?
- Are one or both parents able to work from home or cease working temporarily?
- How does each parent feel about social distancing and interacting with others, such as play dates, holidays, and family gatherings?
- Is either parent open to the option of virtual visitation sessions?
- Does either parent have other children whose health and educational needs must also be considered?
As you can see, there are an immense number of issues that must be addressed and each family’s situation is unique. However, with the help of an experienced mediator, your child’s health and well-being can be protected while decreasing stress on the parents.
Our Experienced Family Law Team Puts New York Families First
At the Law Office of Stacy Sabatini, Esq., we provide an array of family law and related legal services to families in Rockland, Orange, and Westchester counties. To find out more about visitation orders as well as our other services, please contact our office online by filling out our online form or call (845) 243-0295 today!