When the court orders a custody and parenting time schedule, it typically meets the needs of everyone’s present circumstances. But what if an emergency–in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic–makes that arrangement unsustainable? What if you feel that it’s not safe for the kids to travel to visit their other parent?
Although everyone’s situation is unique (and should be discussed with their New York divorce attorney), below are some potential resolutions that may work for you and your family.
Discuss a temporary alternate arrangement
If you and your ex are on good terms, then call them to discuss your worries. If confirmed cases of coronavirus have recently been diagnosed in their community, then chances are that they won’t want to risk the children being exposed.
If they have been taking measures to avoid exposure (e.g., working from home), then perhaps your ex could visit the kids at your place. If they have recently returned from abroad or there are concerns about possible exposure to the virus, then it might be better to have virtual visitation instead, such as video conferencing, email, and text exchanges.
Seek an emergency order
If your ex dismisses your concerns and you’re worried that the kids are at risk if the visitation goes ahead, then seek court approval to change the schedule. Resist the urge to simply refuse to send the children to stay with their other parent. Despite your positive intentions, doing so could be perceived as interfering with your ex’s visitation rights and cause legal trouble for you later on.
Instead, contact your New York divorce attorney immediately about obtaining an emergency hearing, and be prepared to present evidence that your children could be at risk if the visitation takes place. Do any of the children have a compromised immune system? Did their other parent recently return from China or have contact with someone who was subsequently diagnosed with coronavirus?
If the answer to any (or all) of these questions is yes, then your attorney can help you persuade a judge to change the custody plan until the outlook improves.
Talk to your children
Whatever route you take, make sure that your children understand the importance of good hygiene practices. This includes washing their hands, refraining from touching their faces, and applying hand sanitizer when appropriate. With younger children and toddlers, supervise them until the sanitizer has dried on their skin, to prevent accidental ingestion.
If you have concerns about the impact of coronavirus on your custody and parenting time schedule, then be sure to discuss them with your attorney, especially if the other parent doesn’t appear to share your concerns. Keeping your children safe at this challenging time is paramount, and legal counsel will help you make informed decisions.
Jayson Lutzky is a dedicated Bronx, NY family court and divorce attorney with over 36 years of experience. Call 718-329-9500 for more information or visit MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com.