VISITATION DURING THE COVID-19 Pandemic
Our office has received a growing numbers of inquiries from our clients and potential clients about suspending the other parent's visitation based on the non-specific concerns and the general dangers relating to exposing their child(ren) to a different environment from their home, and further because they believe it is supported by the Government Orders relating to social contact and the “stay at home” mandate. This is a potentially dangerous position that you must understand the consequences that could follow.
First, parents can jointly decide to modify or suspend visitation by agreement. However, if there is a dispute about visitation, it is our duty to advise all of our clients to obey lawful Orders of the Court absent specific dangerous or harmful conduct of the other parent. Parents may always use their reasonable judgment supported by provable facts to protect their child(ren) from unreasonably risky situations and probable harm. We will defend our client's actions that meet this standard.
Please understand, however, at a recent seminar of the family law attorneys and Judges, the participating Judges indicated that parents should generally follow the Court's visitation orders, and would continue to apply a high standard of proof that a child would be in surroundings which endanger the safety of the child before approving a parent's action to withhold visitation. They indicated clearly that the speculative dangers of Covid-19 or the Governor's/ Mayor's “stay at home” order do not provide a unilateral basis to deny otherwise court ordered visitation absent the high burden of proof required to deny the other parents rights to physical custody.
You are the parent of your child and you know what is in their best interest. Please use caution when denying other parent's visitation rights. These actions could result in additional litigation and motions to enforce visitation which have varying consequences, including change of custody. If you have questions about this or other family law matters do not hesitate to give our office a call at 918-744-7100.