Custody and Visitation Do’s and Don’ts During COVID-19

Child Custody and Visitation Form

We have all been affected by COVID-19 in so many ways, but right can a time of greater stress, especially for families with children, and perhaps even more so, families who have gone through the divorce process, and parenting time with children is subject Court Orders.

One of the most important things to know during this time is that custody or visitation Orders remain in place, with the expectation that the Orders are to continue to be followed. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper entered a “stay at home” order that prohibited nonessential travel, however made an exception for individuals traveling “between one’s place or places of residence for purposes including, but not limited to, child custody or visitation arrangements.” Parties are expected to continue to follow their custody orders, while also adhering to local “stay at home” orders.

This could mean that some details in your agreement may have to change. Cooperation between parents to ensure the best interest of their children is vital during the time of the coronavirus pandemic. While communication between the parents is highly encouraged, if permitted by your court order, disagreements about how to handle your specific situation is not a reason to deny parenting time.

However, any orders entered pursuant to a domestic violence protection order may require different considerations. If you need help with issues coming up from these custody orders, an attorney should be contacted to review your options.

Some general things to consider:

Custody orders frequently revolve around the minor child’s school schedule. Although children are not currently physically in school, parents should do their best to follow the custody schedule, as provided in their Court Orders. The Family Court Advisory Commission has stated that “school closure for public health purposes will not be considered an extension of any break/vacation/holiday period or weekend.” This applies to any spring break, summer break, or designated holiday changes. The order should be followed the same way it would have if the child were still attending school.

Schools are also often used as an easy way to accomplish exchanges. While a school parking lot can still be used as an exchange location, parents may need to communicate more about how this will be accomplished. Parties may need to discuss the change in responsibility they both have relating to exchanges of children. For example, both parties may now need to drive to the pick-up/drop-off location. It’s also important to remember that CDC recommendations should be followed, to the best of parents’ abilities, during these exchanges. This may also mean that a new, less populated, exchange location should be chosen.

Another situation that may be complicated during the times of COVID-19 is orders that require supervised parenting time. The Family Court Advisory Commission stated that if a supervisor is unavailable, “parenting time should be conducted virtually via videoconferencing (e.g., WebEx, Skype, or FaceTime) or by telephone.” Any questions about a current order and alternative supervisor options should be discussed with an attorney.

If you have any questions or concerns about your custody or visitation agreement, please contact one of our family law attorneys at Jetton & Meredith.