COVID-19 and Child Custody in the Triad
The Judicial Branch through the Family Court Advisory Commission issued recommendations that were approved by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley last week. The goals are consistency and stability in the best interest of the child(ren). The recommendations do not apply to Chapter 50B cases related to domestic violence.
Governor Cooper’s March 27, 2020 “stay at home” order prohibits nonessential travel but allows for “travel between one’s place or places of residence for purposes including, but not limited to, child custody or visitation arrangements.”
Parents are encouraged to check restrictions if the visitation exchange is between states.
COVID-19 in and of itself is not a reason to deny parenting times under a court order.
2. I am under a Child Custody Court order for the exchange of my children with the other parent, and the other parent has tested positive for COVID-19. Do I have to continue to exchange the children under these circumstances?
The recommendation signed by Chief Justice Beasley indicates that if a parent or a member of his/her household is diagnosed
with or displays symptoms of COVID-19, the other parent should be notified as soon as possible. The parents in this situation should follow the advice of their health care provider(s).
Do not contact First Responders for parenting concerns, unless domestic violence is involved or unless there is an immediate health and safety risk. An immediate risk might be a child having trouble breathing and needing emergency help or transport to a medical facility.
3. I am under a Child Custody Court order for the exchange of my children with the other parent, but is a health care worker treating COVID-19 patients? Do I have to continue to exchange the children under these circumstances?
COVID-19 is not a reason in and of itself to violate a court order.
4. I am under a Child Custody Court order for the exchange of my children with the other parent, and the other parent is acting recklessly by not following the Governor’s Stay home order?
Unless the parties are restrained from communicating by a Court order, parents are encouraged to communicate about precautions they are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of the child(ren). A parent is not permitted to deny parenting time based upon the other parent’s unwillingness to discuss that parent’s precautionary measures taken or a parent’s belief that the other parent’s precautions are insufficient.
5. My children are not in school, and I have the children most of the summer. Can I get them now?
No. While the schools are closed, parenting time continues as if the children are attending school in accordance with the regular school calendar of the regular school district the children are in. Follow the school calendar, even if the school is out for COVID-19.
6. Is mediation available for custody issues related to COVID-19 in the Triad?
Yes, remote mediation on COVID-19 issues may be available. Each county operates a unique Child Custody Mediation program, and the rules and hours vary. Many are doing Zoom mediations. Contact your county’s Child Custody Mediation office.
Carolyn Woodruff is CEO of Woodruff Family Law Group, 420 West Market Street, Greensboro, NC 27401 and has been a frequent and well-known news contributor in the Triad. She and the other seven lawyers at Woodruff Family Law Group are Fighting for the Family Law needs in the Triad, during COVID-19. See www.woodrufflawfirm.com. Contact 336 202 1747 for a remote interview.