Many are wondering if and how custody and visitation orders are being affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when we are only supposed to go out for an essential need or purpose. So, is abiding by custody and visitation orders essential? Most definitely! However, we will need to exercise common sense and save room for flexibility given that we are amidst a pandemic, a potentially deadly one at that.
San Diego courts are closed, and only emergency requests will be reviewed. Modifications to child custody and/or visitation rights more than likely will not be considered an emergency in the court’s eyes. Therefore, it is up to clients and their attorneys to handle the situation.
If you have custody and visitation orders already in place or an agreement, then it needs to be followed. If for whatever reason you choose to disobey the court order or agreement, you will have to answer for it once courts reopen. Unless someone has been exposed to the virus, is at risk to being exposed to the virus, is self-quarantining, or has a valid reason, there are still services in place to help families stay in adherence with their orders or agreements.
Professional services that assist with supervised visitations and exchanges are considered essential and are still open for business. Most, if not all, have “no contact” rules so that the professionals remain at a safe distance away from the parties and the children. Give the professional servicers a call to see what policies and procedures they have adopted in order to remain safe during the pandemic.
If parties do not want to use professional services for an exchange, a “preserve the peace officer” can be requested to monitor the exchange of children. Call your local, non-emergency police phone number to make the request at the time of the exchange.
If there are no custody and visitation orders or an agreement in place, this is the perfect time to take advantage of coming to an agreement prior to appearing in court. Benefits of doing so – saves money, moves the case forward, and allows parties to come to their own agreement instead of a judge.
Regardless of whether there are or are not custody and visitation orders or an agreement in place, our country’s situation now requires a few things from both parties: (1) being an amazing co-parent, (2) being flexible and creative, and (3) focusing on the child’s best interest.