As a parent, you want the best for your child. For parents in child custody arrangements, having a defined schedule that governs when children will live with or visit each parent is usually less of an option and more of a necessity. Well-planned child custody agreements allow parents to maximize the time they spend with their children and avoid causing tension with their ex.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has destabilized many child custody arrangements. If a parent loses their job due to the coronavirus, they may find caring for a child in their custody challenging. Parents who work in essential positions and are at risk of contracting the virus may be wary of interacting with their children too closely. As schools and childcare facilities shut down, many parents may find themselves missing critical pillars of their childcare routine. The list goes on.

Understanding how to navigate your child custody arrangement during the COVID-19 pandemic can help parents care for their children during this time.

Does COVID-19 Change My Child Custody Arrangement?

Probably not. Around the country, judges have issued orders specifying that the legality of child custody arrangements will not change due to coronavirus. For example, in both Dallas, Texas, and Orange County, California, judges have specified that child custody arrangements will not change during this time.

If your child is supposed to spend three days a week with your ex, this pandemic won't change that. However, there are a number of factors that may affect child custody arrangements—assuming both parents agree that the arrangement should be modified.

Parental Collaboration—the Key to Navigating Child Custody During COVID-19

At this time, it's vital that parents work together to create an ideal temporary custody arrangement for their children. If you're estranged from your ex, we recommend seeking the help of a mediator to help facilitate a mutually beneficial arrangement.

There are a variety of factors parents should take into account when developing a new temporary child custody arrangement during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Is either parent at-risk of contracting the coronavirus on a daily basis? Parents who work in hospitals or will have direct contact with COVID-19 patients during this time should factor that into their child custody arrangement. If you infect your child and then exchange custody, you're starting a chain reaction that could end with multiple new coronavirus cases. Parents should discuss how to handle custody if a parent works in close proximity to COVID-19.
  • Is either parent high-risk? If a parent or child has respiratory issues, is immuno-compromised, or is otherwise at high risk of health complications from COVID-19, that should play a role in the child custody arrangement. Both parents should follow CDC guidelines for social distancings and cleanliness to minimize their chances of contracting the virus.
  • What will happen if a parent or child contracts the coronavirus? How will you handle quarantine? Both parents should keep the other updated on whether or not they or their children are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  • How will children be exchanged? Venues like schools or childcare facilities that are usually popular spots to exchange custody are no longer operational.
  • How will out-of-state or international custody be handled? Obviously, travel should be limited if possible. Consider modifying your custody arrangement to reduce the need for travel.
  • How can technology be used to improve the situation? Video conferencing tools such as Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom can allow parents to spend time with their children. If a parent who normally gets joint custody can no longer do so during the pandemic, video conferencing can be a great way to maintain that parent's relationship with their children.
  • What concerns do the parents have? If a parent is concerned their ex isn't taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously enough, now's the time to bring up such topics. Working with a mediator may be helpful for estranged parents.

Ultimately, your concern should be the health and general wellbeing of your child. Working together with your ex to ensure your child's needs are met will be vital during this time.

If you need help modifying your child custody arrangement during the COVID-19 pandemic, Moshtael Family Law can help. Our experienced, compassionate family lawyers can help you navigate your child custody case successfully. Contact us online or via phone at (714) 909-2561 to arrange a consultation.

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