Child Custody in the time of COVID-19
Separated or divorced parents who share child custody are likely to have some of the most difficult questions during the present Stay-At-Home Order issued by Governor Wolf. Even parents who typically cooperate well and follow their custody order may be second-guessing the wisdom of sharing custody at a time when the Commonwealth is restricted to only “essential travel.”
It is clear that, in general, a child’s transportation pursuant to a custody order is considered essential travel. Custody orders are still effective and must be followed. Otherwise, the party declining to follow the order may be held in contempt of court. The order may be changed as a result, or the party disregarding the order may be fined or even jailed.
However, there may be situations in which the custody order reasonably should be amended. If a parent is or resides with an immune or compromised person – including the child or children subject to the order – it may be wise to disrupt the schedule by permitting one parent to retain custody for the duration of quarantine to prevent the spread of disease to the at-risk individual.
This cannot be done unilaterally – if a parent chooses to do this without the agreement of the other parent, the possibility of contempt looms. But parents in sch a situation can and should create an alternate, temporary agreement for custody. For many parents, make-up time can be offered at a later date. Increased electronic communication with the non-custodial parent can minimize the harm of the lack of contact. Child support payments can be amended by agreement of the parties to reflect the reality of the current situation.
If you need an attorney to help you navigate these kinds of issues, Scaringi Law is here to help. Our family law attorneys can help negotiate a reasonable agreement or, if needed, take legal action against a parent who is unreasonably withholding custody.