When COVID-19 hit, the United States was not prepared for a pandemic, let alone the aftermath. We had to adjust all aspects of our lives to accommodate a contagious virus, and, somehow, continue to move forward into a “new normal.” For those who are divorced or separated and trying to juggle child custody and child support matters amidst the pandemic, this has meant a whole new list of questions and concerns. You may have been wondering: How does child custody work during COVID-19? Is it safe for my child to split his or her time between parents during a pandemic?
We went ahead and compiled a list of the questions you might have about child custody during the coronavirus and then answered them for you. We did this because it is during a time of complete uncertainty and confusion that people deserve professional legal advice more than ever.
Will COVID-19 Impact My Child Custody Order?
The short and sweet answer to this question is: not really. Child custody orders are still in place and yes, you must still follow your child custody order or arrangement. The Maryland Judiciary has made this quite clear and issued a statement that reads, “all court orders for a child’s custody, parenting time, and child support are still in effect.”
Is Co-Parenting More Difficult During This Time?
Many parents have found it more difficult to co-parent during the coronavirus with social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place. However, that being said, other parents are finding it easier as they have more time with their children now that they can work from home. Everyone’s co-parenting situation is different and should be treated as such.
Some helpful tips for co-parenting during the coronavirus are as follows:
- Follow your court orders
- Stay up-to-date on state and local orders and follow them
- Practice effective communication
- Learn how to spend time with one another virtually
Am I Allowed to Travel for the Sake of Visitation or Exchanging Child Custody Purposes?
On April 13, 2020, Maryland’s Governor, Larry Hogan, passed an interpretive guidance document on child custody and visitation rights. What this essentially states is that divorced and separated couples who share custody of their children can leave their homes as they deem necessary to exchange custody or follow visitation orders. This applies to all custody and visitation arrangements, including court-ordered ones and agreements established by the parents.
Parents may have to adjust and pick different meeting places for visitation hours, as many public areas in Maryland are still closed. They also may need to make accommodations to ensure that they are implementing COVID-safe practices while out in public. On a positive note, Maryland is currently in stage 2 of reopening the state, so many non-essential businesses have been given the green light to continue work again.
Are Courts Open Now and Can They Assist with My Child Custody Arrangement?
The short answer to this is: sort of. Due to limited staff, courts are only hearing family law emergencies where there is credible risk of physical or emotional harm to a child or parent in the family.
The state of Maryland is doing everything in its power to ensure the courts can accommodate more hearings in-person. Five phases have been put into place to slowly re-open and resume full operations.
When it comes to figuring out a child custody arrangement during COVID-19, it is best to think about your child’s wants and needs and what will be the most beneficial for him/her at this time.
Can I Keep My Child with Me if My Ex-Spouse Is at Risk of COVID-19?
Anyone who does not obey a court order — and a child custody order is that —can be penalized for doing so. The risk here is that your ex-spouse could file a motion to enforce this order, and then you could be held in contempt of court. It is not necessarily in your best interest to do so, however; if you feel this move would be in the best interest of your child, consult your attorney beforehand. It is always best to consult an experienced family attorney in these instances.
What Can I Do if I Am Afraid to Send My Child for Visitation During COVID-19?
This is an understandable concern on many accounts. However, you must follow your child custody order unless you go back to court and get the court orders modified by a judge.
Be familiar with your rights as a parent in the state of Maryland and talk to your ex-spouse about your concerns. If you can both come to a resolution that is safe and in the best interest of your child, go for it. Co-parenting during COVID-19 is not easy, so be sure to seek guidance from a family law attorney if needed.
My Ex-Spouse Will Not Let Me See My Child Because of COVID-19. What Can I Do?
If your spouse refuses to comply with your child custody court order, you can consult with your state court or your attorney for assistance. Additionally, a great resource that guides you through how to enforce court orders can be read on The People’s Law Library of Maryland.
If you need support with your child custody case during COVID-19, contact our office online or give us a call at (410) 618-0863 to schedule a personal consultation with our team.