Managing Child Custody and Visitation Issues During a Crisis

Woman with two children on a tablet

We’ve never been faced with a crisis like COVID-19, and so this is new territory for all of us. Read more to learn how to manage expectations and the legal parameters of your custody agreement when a crisis such as this disrupts your family’s life.

School is closed, and your children are following stay-at-home orders fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. But your ex-spouse—the co-parent of your children—has a different perspective on the crisis.

In the mind of your ex, you are overreacting. He is not happy about not getting to see his children as often as he used to before the pandemic. And now, you are left in a quandary. Should you fulfill your custody order so that the other parent can see the children, too—even if it means putting yourself and the children in harm’s way?

Here’s an overview on how to address child custody and visitation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comply with Your Custody Agreement If You Can

During the global pandemic or any crisis, it is paramount that you continue to follow your child custody and visitation agreement as much as you can. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel due to the abnormal circumstances. The purpose of your custody agreement is to keep you and the other party from constantly squabbling over your timesharing details.

What to Do When Complying with Your Current Custody Agreement Won’t Work

Although complying with a child custody and visitation agreement may be a viable option for co-parents who live near each other, this may not be possible for those with long distance custody and visitation schedules, for example. In this situation, you and the other party should try to agree on an alternative to your regular custody schedule that is most appropriate for all parties involved. Ideally, you would follow this alternative schedule until the coronavirus subsided enough for you to resume your routine.

In the meantime, you should do your best to remain in communication with each other. You should understand the other parent’s expectations and concerns, and vice versa. Also, if the other party either can’t or won’t exercise his or her custodial time due to long distance custody and visitation schedules, then consider using online games or even Skype/FaceTime calls to maintain your children’s connection to the other party. Movies and books are another way your children and the other parent can stay connected.

All in all, both you and your ex should be reasonable regarding your demands on the children and on one another. After all, you may have to work additional hours to assist in dealing with the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, the other parent might be furloughed or working fewer hours during the pandemic period. You should both be prepared for plans to change at times and to adjust your child custody and visitation situation accordingly.

Focus on Your Health

When it comes to dealing with the coronavirus, it’s critical that you and the other parent comply with state, local, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when your children are in your care. This means engaging in social distancing and limiting your exposure to groups of other individuals. You and your children should also practice excellent personal hygiene by intensively washing your hands. Wiping down any surface that is frequently touched is also necessary.

If you suspect that you are starting to display coronavirus symptoms, it is paramount that you honestly discuss the situation with your ex so that your infection doesn’t spread. Once you undergo testing for COVID-19, you should not resume custody until medical personnel have cleared you. In addition, you must take the appropriate steps to quarantine yourself following your infection.

Seek Legal Guidance Regarding Custody During COVID-19

Are you unsure about how to handle child custody and visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic? Or, are you and the other parent having a custody-related dispute? Perhaps the other parent has violated your custody order, and you would like to address this issue right away.

I, attorney Michael C. MacNeil, can help you navigate your custody-related issue during the Great Lockdown. I will walk you through all of the options currently available to you in your particular situation. While family courts in California remain closed or with limited hours, I am available for virtual consultations for any family law issue you are facing.

Get in touch with me to learn more about how I can help you protect your rights and best interests related to child custody and visitation during this crisis or any time you need support.

About Michael MacNeil

Michael C. MacNeil is a San Diego Family Law and Criminal Defense attorney. With a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law, MacNeil has a solid understanding of our justice system. As a member of the State Bar of California, MacNeal can practice before all courts in the state. MacNeil believes that the law should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. With over 20 years of experience, Michael C. MacNeil is passionate about the law and will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for you. Call Mr. MacNeil at 858-922-7098.