News of the coronavirus is pervasive, and it is difficult to escape feelings of worry. Official reactions have ranged from downplaying the risk to outright panic, and financial markets are in turmoil. While we don’t want to speculate on the dangers of the coronavirus COVID-19, the impact of the world’s reaction is already very real.

This raises the question among divorced parents: how does the coronavirus impact child-custody arrangements?

Relevant Coronavirus Questions That Are Coming Up

Can the coronavirus affect your legal and physical custody rights? The short answer is maybe.

This is a brand-new legal issue that the courts have yet to sufficiently address, but here are a few interesting questions that have been coming up:

It’s my ex-husband’s weekend with our daughter, and he has a cold. Can I refuse to take our daughter to the visit because my ex might have the coronavirus? 

Short answer: You will probably lose on this in court, unless you have a physician who can testify on your behalf. 

My ex-spouse wants to take my child on vacation to an area (e.g., northern Italy) that has had multiple coronavirus infections. Do I have any recourse to refuse? 

Short answer: You may win on this in court, but the United States Department of State has yet to ban travel to Italy. Rather, the State Department is simply advising people to “reconsider” traveling there. If people decide to travel there regardless, the State Department has listed precautions people should take. The court may simply include these precautions as part of its order and allow your ex-spouse to travel there with your child. 

It’s my ex-spouse’s weekend with our child, but my child is sick and I’m afraid my child might infect him. Can we legally reschedule? 

Short answer: Most likely the court will leave the decision to reschedule or proceed with the visit to your ex-husband’s discretion. 

What happens if my child is quarantined because of coronavirus and I miss two weekends with her? Can I have “make-up” days?

Short answer: Most likely yes, but this is not guaranteed.

My ex-spouse works at a hospital, and I’m afraid he might bring the coronavirus home. Can we get a temporary order to prevent my child from being in his home until this scare passes?

Short answer: Most likely no, unless you have some medical evidence to support that your ex is likely to catch COVID-19. If courts started preventing hospital workers from visiting with their children, this would create a dangerous slippery slope. 

My ex-spouse is taking no precautions at all against the coronavirus and believes it to be a hoax. Is she a safety-risk to my child?

While I get asked these types of questions often, they are better asked to your physician or pediatrician. 

Things a Judge Might Consider

Think of the custody question as a puzzle with many moving parts. No matter what the situation, the judge has to weigh multiple factors: the safety of the child, living environment, the age of the child, the relationship of the parents (ex-spouses) to each other, stability, the child’s preference, continuity of education, past relationship with each parent, and so on.

Any new situation that arises from the coronavirus scare will have to be added to that already complicated mix. 

To Win Over the Judge, You Need a Reasoned Legal Argument

In short, you need a solid legal argument with evidentiary support to persuade a judge to amend or add conditions to your custody arrangement, especially if your request stems from something as new as the coronavirus issue. In other words, you need a strong family law attorney to argue on your behalf for your best chances.

It also might be worth a consultation. In some cases, your particular case might not have a legal basis at all. Meeting with your family law attorney may save you from going after a lost cause.

Either way, you should talk to your lawyer.

Worried About the Coronavirus and Issues of Custody?

If you have pressing concerns about issues related to the coronavirus and custody, contact Park Family Law. Whether you need an experienced mediator to amicably and efficiently settle your case or an aggressive litigator to get you the best results in court, Park Family Law can assist you every step of the way.