One of the many things the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic has affected is child custody. Divorced parents have struggled with sticking to their custody agreements amid child safety concerns and stay-at-home orders. Despite the challenges parents are facing, they must lawfully continue to obey custody and visitation orders. Parents who are having trouble with their spouses following court orders during the pandemic should speak to family law attorneys for advice.
Should Court Orders Be Followed During the Pandemic?
Neither you nor your spouse has the right to disobey a court order during the COVID-19 pandemic. A court order trumps all other orders, including orders from the government to shelter in place. You and your spouse must continue to obey all court orders, including child custody and visitation orders unless you receive a court order granting a modification. The courts during this time are expecting all spouses to work together to maintain their parenting time arrangements. This has proven problematic for many families, however.
Some spouses cannot compromise and communicate – especially when it comes to something as important as parenting time. If you and your spouse are fighting over child custody during the pandemic, you may need to go to a judge to force your spouse to obey a court order. To make things more difficult, the courts in Colorado are currently closed to most cases other than emergencies. If your situation constitutes an emergency, such as parental kidnapping, the courts will still hear your case. Otherwise, you may have to wait until the courts reopen or a judge can hear your case virtually for a resolution.
What If a Parent Doesn’t Follow Court Orders?
You have legal rights and options if your spouse is not following visitation orders or court custody. While it is acceptable for your spouse to have valid concerns about the virus and your child’s safety, it is against the law for him or her to withhold custody or visitation from you using the virus as a reason. Your spouse must work with you to continue upholding your current custody or visitation arrangement unless you both agree to do otherwise.
If you or your spouse believe upholding the agreement could endanger your child, you must communicate with your ex to agree to a temporary change in custody or alternatives such as making up the missed dates later or doing virtual visitation. If you do not agree with your ex-spouse disobeying court orders, bring the matter to a judge. A parent could face court sanctions and be held in contempt of court for breaching a parenting plan during COVID-19.
Contact a family law attorney in Denver for assistance if your spouse is withholding custody or visitation from you due to COVID-19 without your permission or consent. Your lawyer may be able to help you obtain an emergency temporary child custody order if you believe your child is in danger. Otherwise, your lawyer can help you hold your ex-spouse accountable for disobeying a custody agreement by filing a formal complaint. A judge may order the other parent to obey your custody agreement despite the coronavirus, pass a temporary child custody modification order, and/or inflict penalties such as fines and jail time.
Can Custody Change If a Parent Has COVID-19?
If you or your co-parent tests positive for COVID-19, child safety during custody or visitation is a valid concern. You may have the right to deny your ex-spouse custody, even if it breaks your custody agreement, if he or she has tested positive. If a parent refuses to relinquish custody even with COVID-19, a lawyer may be able to help you receive an emergency order granting you temporary custody to protect the child’s health and safety. Work with a child custody lawyer in Denver for assistance dealing with a custody or visitation problem during the pandemic. These are complex issues that may require legal intervention.