Custody During COVID-19: What’s Best for the Kids?

April 22, 2020

As if the fears and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus aren’t enough, many parents may find themselves having to balance concern for their children’s health with their current custody agreement. How do you keep what is best for your children at heart when navigating decisions about custody during COVID-19?

Open conversation between both parents is the key.

First and foremost, parents need to realize that this is a time to work together in finding a solution that is best for the children and to put any other differences aside. Open up a dialogue with each other and discuss your concerns based on the facts available to you. Chances are good that you both may already be on the same page. And hopefully, you can agree on a temporary solution. 

Ways to Increase Connection

You may find yourselves in a situation where you fear the kids may be at risk at one parent’s house, leaving the other parent with significantly fewer visitation privileges than usual.

Here are some suggestions to help keep your children connected to their socially distant parent:

Video chat! 

Technology today gives us options that are great for social distancing. The parent that is missing out on periods of custody can regularly Facetime, Zoom, Skype, or have a Hangouts call with the kids so that they can still have quality time together.  

Makeup Periods. 

Plan to have makeup periods of custody after the threat is over. Remember, this is for the kids. It’s not a punishment for you.

Drive-by Visits

Plan a drive-by where the kids can wave and talk to the other parent from a front yard.

Special Activities to Create a Connection

Plan an activity for the kids each day where they can make something special for the other parent. After it’s completed, the child can send it in the mail or give it in person when this crisis is over.

Temporary Agreements

What some parents either don’t realize or refuse to acknowledge is that your custody agreement can be changed if both parties are in agreement. If either one of you is uncomfortable with deviating from what the agreement states, you can always put a temporary agreement in writing.

Navigating temporary agreements is something your attorney can help you accomplish.

Emergency Relief

Depending on the severity of the risk involved, you may be able to request emergency relief from the court. You may be in the unfortunate situation where

  • discussion is not an option and
  • there could be an increased risk of infection at one parent’s house. 

But please understand that you cannot simply refuse to follow your current agreement. Doing so could land you in trouble with the court and cause unfortunate issues in the future. 

We are slowly learning what types of issues the Courts are willing to address on an emergency basis while the Courthouses are closed. In most cases, the parties or their attorneys will need to participate in some form, like appearing virtually in a video chat.

The process will likely take a bit longer than you may be used to if you’ve been through it before. And be forewarned: this type of relief requires you to overcome a relatively high burden. For these reasons, this is something that you would be better off navigating through with the help of an attorney.  

Love and Support

If you find yourself having to deal with COVID-19, remember that your kid’s lives have been dramatically changed by this already. They’ve been pulled out of school and kept away from their friends.

What your children need most is the love and support of their parents to help them adjust to this unprecedented situation. 

So start by talking to the other parent and trying to work out a reasonable solution. And remember that your attorney is there for you if you need us. We can help you figure out how to divide your stimulus payment too. Plan some fun time with your kids, and embrace whatever change in your schedule is best for your family. 

Keep calm, wash your hands, and stay healthy!

Kathleen Krafft Miller is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University and regularly advises individuals on legal matters related to family law and domestic relations issues.