The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way that much of daily life operates. And logistically speaking, it has made things very difficult for divorced parents who share custody of their minor children. There is generally a scientific consensus that avoiding public gatherings, wearing masks and socially distancing are effective strategies to stay healthy. But co-parents cannot always agree on what these behaviors look like in practice.
Here are just some of the many disputes and uncertainties divorced co-parents may have faced (and will continue to face) during the pandemic:
- Whether it is safe for kids to continue traveling between homes, and if so, how often
- Whether the children need to be wearing masks whenever they are out of the house
- Whether either parent can schedule playdates with other families
- Whether either parent can take their kids out to eat at restaurants with indoor or outdoor dining
- How to handle new romantic partners for either parent and the potential exposure they may introduce into the home
- Whether to keep kids learning online or in school (if schools offer a choice)
Violating the custody order comes with consequences
During the lockdowns that happened earlier this year, many parents unilaterally made decisions to change or suspend their custody agreements. While their intentions may have been good, parents don’t actually have the authority to keep their children away from the other parent without either the other parent’s permission or an official custody modification.
Violating court orders can lead to trouble in the long run. If your ex takes you to court to enforce the order, your previous violations might give you weak standing with a judge. Therefore, it is far better to either seek an official change to the order or negotiate a temporary agreement with your co-parent (and preferably put that agreement in writing).
Although the lockdown period in the spring ended after a couple months, there is reason to think it will be happening again as winter rolls in and the virus continues to spread. Therefore, these are real issues that need to be anticipated.
If you have questions or need to petition the court for a custody modification, please contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.