Like most parents, you will likely have grave concerns about how to address the needs of children if you test positive for COVID-19, suffer from the symptoms, or become seriously ill from the disease. However, you face an additional set of hurdles if you share child custody and visitation of your child as a co-parent. According to guidelines established by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are varying implications about quarantine after a parent has had COVID-19. To be around others, that person might have to wait:
- 10 days after first experiencing symptoms; and,
- 24 hours after the fever goes away; and,
- There is a notable improvement in symptoms.
As a result, you may have to address child custody regardless of whether you are the parent who contracted COVID-19. With advice and counsel from a Virginia child custody and visitation attorney, there are a few factors to consider as you work to get through this challenging time.
- Put the child’s health and safety first. You are already required to comply with the Virginia statute on the child’s best interests regarding custody and visitation, so now is the time to really focus on each factor. Co-parents cannot make decisions based upon what is convenient or works with scheduling. Determine an arrangement that suits your child’s needs and protects health and well-being, even though it affects the rights of the parent with COVID-19. Keep in mind that modern technology offers many options for interacting with the child. It is possible to have conversations, play games, do homework together, and engage in many other enrichment activities virtually.
- Consider an agreement on temporary relocation. The most efficient and effective way to address custody and serve your child’s best interests is to work out a compromise on the child’s living arrangement. If the residential parent is the one with COVID-19, the logical and practical decision is implementing a temporary relocation to the other parent’s home. Remember that this will only be short-term in nature, until cleared under CDC guidelines listed above. Coming to an agreement is a preferred option to going to court for a hearing, and your respective lawyers may be able to help you negotiate a compromise even when you thought it was not possible.
- Appreciate the legal impact of the court’s custody order. The current order that is in place has the effect of law, so there can be serious consequences for violating it. While you might agree on temporary relocation, you should have your child custody attorney bring the matter before the judge and enter the proper order. If you are unable to compromise on a safe, suitable living arrangement, neither parent should take matters into their own hands by keeping the child away from the parent with COVID-19. Work with your attorney to seek appropriate legal remedies first, on an emergency basis if necessary.
- Account for your child’s schooling environment. Depending on where you live in Virginia, your child may be attending school remotely, in the classroom, or a hybrid approach according to regulations established by the Virginia Department of Education and local officials. Both parents must comply with their duty to support this child in whatever learning environment applies. Some options may include:
- For remote learners, make sure the parent with residential custody is properly set up with internet and technology requirements.
- If your child attends class in-person and needs to relocate, transportation can be a challenge based upon distance. It may make sense to work with your child’s school to go with remote learning during the temporary relocation.
- Bring custody issues before a judge if necessary. When co-parents cannot agree on a temporary solution to one of them having COVID-19, you must request that the court intervene. The judge will apply the factors of the child’s best interests standard, so you can probably expect that the non-infected parent will have temporary residential custody. The exception would be where there is violence, abuse, or some other risk to the child’s safety and well-being.
Talk to a Virginia Child Custody and Visitation Lawyer About Your Options
These factors are just a framework for how to address child custody considerations if one co-parent is diagnosed with COVID-10. You should still work with an experienced attorney to protect your rights as a parent and ensure you remain in compliance with the law. For more information on how our team can help with custody and related issues, please contact Roop Xanttopoulos Babounakis PLLC. You can set up a consultation with a lawyer by calling 703-442-0040 or visiting us online.
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