Custody and Access in the Time of Covid-19
Covid-19 has had a monumental impact on almost all aspects of life. Many people have grown accustomed to working from home, going to school from home, and spending lengthy periods of time in quarantine. With all of the regulations and protocols that are in place, how are parents supposed to follow their custody and access orders without falling out of compliance? The short answer is—be reasonable, and don’t try to use the pandemic as a way to restrict the other parent’s time.
The Maryland Judiciary issued a memorandum titled the “Statement from the Maryland Judiciary on Matters Concerning Children & Families” that effectively stated that all court orders for custody and parenting time are to remain in effect during Covid-19, unless the parties can jointly agree otherwise.
During Covid-19, it is especially important for parents to communicate openly and honestly. If a child is exposed to Covid-19, the other parent should be advised immediately, and parents should seriously consider make-up time for access time that is missed due to exposure or required quarantines, even if make-up time is not required by Court Order.
Parents needs to consider many different things in the time of Covid-19. For instance, if a parent travels with a child out of Maryland or its’ border states, there is currently a 10 day quarantine required upon return. If that is going to have an impact on the other parent’s custodial time, arrangements should be made before hand to accommodate such travel. It may also be that one parent’s safety protocol is different than the other parents. When that is the case, parents need to communicate with one another in an effort to come up with a uniform set of household rules and regulations to prevent transmission between homes. If a custodial parent refuses to provide access to the non-custodial parent, citing Covid-19 concerns, the remedy remains a filing of Contempt. Pursuant to the Court’s Statement, it is likely that withholding child access would be a contemptuous action. However, that should be considered a last resort, especially given the current back-log in the Maryland Courts due to the numerous cases that have already been postponed.
Simply put, the additional challenges of Covid-19 make it incredibly important for parents to be child focused in their parental decision making.