Family Law and Covid 19

2023 UPDATE:  It’s been three years since our country shut down due to the Covid 19 virus. We hunkered down in our “shelter-in-place” and finally emerged months, perhaps a year or so later. Unfortunately, Covid-19 and its many variants is going to remain with us for the rest of our lives. Although the information below was written in the midst of the “shelter-in-place” the advice is still relevant today. There are still many cases where a parent uses Covid-19 as a means to withhold a child from the other parent. Take heed and be aware that withholding based upon Covid-19 will not be tolerated by the Courts. Follow the advice written below and work with the other parent and not against the other parent.

Covid-19 – What Do I Do?

During these uncertain times, the number one family law questions right now are:

  1. What do I do about visitation between the child and the other parent or myself?
  2. I lost my job what is going to happen to my child support?

First, continue to maintain your parenting plan/temporary visitation order unless the two of you come to a mutually agreed upon decision to deviate from the plan/order. If you do agree to deviate, document the agreement in writing whether by text, email or written document. Parenting plans/temporary visitation orders are deemed essential orders and need to be followed. If a child is immunocompromised then you need to talk with your attorney.

Second, even though schools are suspended for the next month, parents should continue to follow the school’s schedule that would have been in place if school was still in session. In other words, if your school is out for Good Friday and your plan/order says one of you gets Thursday through Sunday on 3-day weekends then follow that part of the plan.

Third, and finally, carry your parenting plan/visitation orders with you in case you get stopped while out and about doing the exchange.


Recently, I attended a webinar in which Judges from across the state participated in an answer/question session.  Following are some of their thoughts:

*Be safe and stay at home but do not use Covid 19 as a reason to withhold

*A fear is not simply enough to stop custody exchanges

*If parents cannot cooperate during this time of pandemic then it is going to be very hard to persuade the Court that they will cooperate with each other at other times and on smaller issues.

  • Parents are cooperating during these unsettling times will be looked upon more favorably when it comes time to decide whether joint custody or sole custody is in the best interests of the child(ren).
  • A parent who had unilaterally decided that since school has been suspended that it is time to either move to the summer schedule or to withhold completely will be looked upon quite unfavorably
  • If someone in one of the households has been exposed or is exhibiting symptoms AND the child has been in both homes during the 2 weeks prior, then it is presumed that the child has already been exposed.
    • Quarantine both houses meaning neither house goes anywhere else until the 2 weeks is up
    • Continues to exchange the child with the other parent
    • Follow all medical advice if there is a parent who is positive in the other home
  • If someone in one of the households has been exposed or is exhibiting symptoms and the child has NOT been in both homes during the 2 weeks prior then you must seek medical advice and follow it but consider keeping the child out of that home and then make up the time later.
  • If the other home tests positive and the child has not been there during the 2 weeks prior to the positive test then you must seek medical advice and follow it but consider keeping the child out of the home and then make up the time later.
  • If the child is immunocompromised and the other parent refuses to temporarily stop visitation then seek and follow medical advice and talk to your attorney
  • If the child lives with a parent who is immunocompromised then it may be necessary for the child to go live with the other parent until the danger has passed and then make up the time later.
  • If one parent is a healthcare worker/front line worker look for alternative ways to engage in visitation or if there is reason why a child is not going to the other house then offer Virtual Visitations even if your parenting plan does not specifically mention it. The parent who is willing to give the other parent unfettered access to the child will be looked upon favorably:
    • Zoom/Facetime/Skype/Telephone calls/Facebook messenger/Portal – you can eat a meal together, read a book, play a game, etc.
    • Arrange for a walk in the park where each person and child has taken the necessary precautions and maintains social distancing
  • If one parent is a healthcare worker/front line worker and refuses to stop visitation talk to an attorney
  • If one parent is supposed to only get supervised visitation then:
    • Supervised due to physical harm – permit the Virtual Visitation
    • Supervised due to emotional harm – try Virtual Visitation but if it becomes a problem then may need to end it
  • If a Motion for Contempt has been filed, it is most likely not going to be granted but it will depend upon the specific circumstances of the case plus that the answer may change down the road. Right now, the situation is too new to really know what hindsight will tell us when handling these issues.
  • If a Family Access Motion has been filed, it will most likely be granted especially if the parent not getting visitation is not be offered compensatory time, but it will still depend upon the specific circumstances of the case
  • One parent should not make the other parent choose between keeping their visitation or keeping their job especially right now when unemployment is so high. Again, fear is not enough to withhold in the majority of cases.
  • If the other parent lives out of state, then parents need to be looking at travel by car rather than by airplane. Even time spent in a car is quality time with your child.  Consider extending the time that the other parent receives to reduce time on the road for the child.
  • If the parent who is supposed to pay child support has lost their job that parent must still continue to pay something to demonstrate their willingness to continue to support their child. The other parent needs to demonstrate patience.
    • If the parent paying child support loses their job due to the current pandemic, then that is a temporary loss in income versus those who simply choose to remain home to shelter in place – pay something – don’t completely forget your obligation
    • If the case is nearing a settlement, then look at agreeing to child support but setting the start date out a couple of months for the paying parent
  • If a parent fails to take a child in for testing against medical advice, then it may be necessary to talk with an attorney and hold a hearing.
  • Demands by one parent to split any stimulus money received by the other parent will not be heard by the courts unless the check has been sent out in both names, but the Courts feel that will be a rare circumstance

If you have additional questions or concerns please talk to your attorney and they will help you out to the best of their abilities.