Custody During COVID-19: How Does Social Distancing Affect Visitation?

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect daily life around the globe, many families are separated and self-isolating. Though the virus is seemingly beginning to wane, social distancing measures are still solidly intact in most states, including heavily-hit New Jersey. For parents who are separated and attempting to navigate shared custody and/or parenting time for their children, it can be frightening to consider the idea that a simple visit to the other parent may lead to infection of such a dangerous disease.

 

Does social distancing mean child visitation is unavailable to one parent? The short answer is no. There’s nothing illegal about visitation during quarantine, and unless a judge has ordered a change, you should continue to follow your usual custody and parenting time arrangement. Still, the need for limiting contact with others as much as possible is critical. So, how can you handle this situation?

 

The first key is ample and honest communication with your co-parent. Understanding what the living situation is – and therefore, degree of isolation – in each parent’s household will establish greater comfort in the idea of a child moving between homes during the pandemic. The jobs that each parent may still be attending and the amount that each parent must break isolation and risk infection will be deciding factors in the safety of visitation. If the parents are able to discuss these matters and set up clear boundaries during this time, there’s a better chance that everyone involved will feel safer.

 

Another key is understanding the risk factors associated with the child and with each parent in relation to COVID-19. These risk factors could be valid justifications for a change in custody and/or parenting time. Does one parent work at a high-risk job? Does one parent have underlying conditions that put them at a high-risk? Has one parent recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19? Is the child at a high-risk for infection due to underlying conditions? These are all questions that must be addressed when considering a potential change in custody and parenting time arrangements.

 

If changes are considered or agreed upon, how can visitation still be achieved in a different form? Multiple video chatting services are available to provide face time between a child and their distant parent. Over video chats, the child and parent can do a host of activities, like eat together, play music, do homework, play games and more. If your child enjoys playing video games, you could arrange for online gaming sessions between the child and the distant parent. The child and distant parent could send letters to each other via snail mail. There are a host of options which can help alleviate some of the social distancing set in place by this virus – the crucial part is each parent being open and willing to be creative and to try new things.

 

What if communication between parents is strained and unsuccessful? What if a change to custody and parenting time feels out of the question for one parent, but necessary to the other? This is where family attorneys like us come in. We can help mediate custody discussions, propose more effective arrangements, and pinpoint the situation that will be most beneficial to the child and for the current custody arrangement. We understand how delicate and important your relationship with your child is, and we are experienced attorneys seeking to find the best outcome for everyone involved.

 

To learn more about our services and how we can help you with custody, parenting time, mediation, and more, visit our practice areas page or contact us directly. Want to learn more about family law during COVID-19? Check out our recent blog 5 Time-Saving Tips to Prepare for Life After Coronavirus.

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