How COVID May Affect Your Child Custody Arrangements

Dealing with the Difficulties of Child Custody During COVID-19

More than 8 million people have been infected with the coronavirus, and more than 220,000 people have died from it. The virus has put millions of people out of work, closed schools, playgrounds, and restaurants, and limited people’s ability to visit friends, family, and loved ones in private homes. If you are divorced and have shared custody with your ex, you may have legitimate concerns about limiting the time they spend with them if you are the primary caregiver.

Custody Orders

If you are the primary caregiver, then you and your child already form a household. You can monitor and strictly regulate the persons they come into contact with. You have no such control once you turn them over to the other parent, and this could lead to an impasse with your ex—a disagreement that may result in a legal dispute.

For the most part, judges have enforced custody orders. Fear of COVID-19 infection cannot be used as an excuse to limit parenting time. Judges have stated that parents can travel and visit each other for the express purpose of adhering to custody arrangements. However, there may be legitimate reasons for limiting the amount of time your child spends with their other parent.

Legitimate Reasons for Limiting Parent Time

To get the best outcome for everyone, you should try to work through such issues with your ex. If this is not possible, then you can contact a divorce lawyer and ask the court to intervene. These are some of the legitimate reasons for limiting parenting time.

Health Issues

If your child has a pre-existing condition—especially one that is related to the respiratory system—you are right to object to potentially exposing them to more people. There is a particular danger if your ex lives with someone who has kids of their own. There has been a great deal made of how children seem to be affected to a lesser degree by the virus, but scientists are still studying how COVID-19 develops.

No parent wants to put their child in danger. To ensure the safety of your child, your ex may take all the precautions recommended during their non-custodial time: social distancing, limiting exposure to other people, practicing good hygiene, and sterilizing packages and containers. However, if your ex’s circumstances are such that the child will be exposed to other children, then you have a legitimate concern that should be addressed before you turn them over.

Job Difficulties

The economic fallout from the pandemic has led to significant displacement. People have lost jobs and homes because of the virus. If your ex has been temporarily forced to relocate to find another job, it may be difficult for them to exercise their custodial rights.

One of the consequences of this development concerns you and your ability to work. If you depended on your ex to take your child for a certain amount of time every week, you will have to find alternative child care arrangements. Finding safe and adequate child care through private providers can be difficult. You may need to make arrangements with family members or close friends who you know and trust. Your ex may object to this arrangement if they do not know or trust the people you want to care for your child. This is a tough situation, but it is possible to resolve it without a legal battle.

The other difficulty to overcome is distance. If your ex has been forced to relocate because of the pandemic, you should for the sake of your child collaborate with them to arrange FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype calls. You can also arrange for the parent and child to play online games and do other things that will help maintain their connection.

A Verified Infection

If your ex contracts COVID-19, then contact with your child should not resume until they have been medically cleared. If your ex’s new partner or children are infected, they should likewise have no contact with the child until everyone is cleared.

If you have been infected with COVID-19, it may not be right for your ex to take the child to their house. However, you may have no choice if you are hospitalized. In these situations, you and your ex will have to decide the best option. You may need to call a divorce lawyer to address any legal issues that arise.

Non-Legitimate Excuses

Divorce can generate volatile and extreme emotions. If you and your ex are not on the best of terms, it can be tempting to use the pandemic to get back at them. Judges have little tolerance for this sort of thing, so before you potentially put your own custody rights in danger, you should know what does not constitute a legitimate reason for limiting the time your child spends with your ex. Here are some non-legitimate excuses that are unlikely to hold up in court.

A Sudden Surge in Cases

Cases will come and go, and the numbers will vary from state to state. You cannot use an uptick in cases in your area as an excuse to keep limit the parenting time of your ex.

Your Ex’s Opinions About the Virus

The virus has prompted many people to theorize, speculate, and opine on its origins, lethality, and contagiousness. Your ex’s views on the virus may diverge significantly from yours and those of the majority of people in the country. However, this cannot be used to keep them from their child. As long as your ex acts in a safe and responsible way, they cannot have their parenting time limited.

Your Ex’s New Relationship

Your ex may have met someone new. The fact that they have entered into a new relationship since the outbreak of COVID-19 is not a valid reason for limiting parenting time. The main thing is that both parties take precautions to keep themselves safe from infection, that they have no symptoms of the virus, and that they have not tested positive for it.

Focusing on What is Best for the Child

You and your ex want what is best for the child you have together. The best way to get your little one through the pandemic safely and with a minimum of mental and emotional strain is for the two of you to work together.

In short, you should follow the following guidelines:

  • Comply with CDC guidelines and the rules established by your state and local governments
  • Model good behavior for your children by frequent hand washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing
  • Abide by your custody agreement and work together to solve new issues as they arise
  • Share with your ex any information you have about suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus and then agree on the steps needed to protect the child from exposure
  • If your ex is in difficulties because of the virus, try to be flexible with their parenting time
  • Aside from FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom, figure out other ways that your child can keep up mental and emotional ties with your ex online
  • Take advantage of online resources to keep yourself informed.

Your Last Resort

If you have tried to be reasonable but are dealing with an unreasonable ex, then you may need to hire a divorce lawyer. The Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco can give you the help you need. The firm is located in Hackensack, New Jersey, and can be contacted by phone at 201-343-0078 or by email at The protection of your child must be your first priority. And if you have legitimate reasons for limiting the time your ex spends with them, contact a divorce lawyer today.

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