Mask wearing and taking other precautions in the middle of the COVID crisis has become a political issue, especially in the middle of a political campaign. Many similar issues are creeping into courtrooms and family law cases. COVID-19 is shaping how courts view family law cases in ways that you may not know..
Custody Problems and COVID
One report tells of a judge who denied custody in a family law case to a parent who was a “anti-masker.” The woman had bragged about not wearing a mask on social media. The custody decision against her was overturned on appeal, but the case illustrates how family law judges still make decisions based on the best interest of the child, regardless of political viewpoints. It also shows how publicly touting your view on something that could affect the health of your child could affect you in your custody case.
There are cases in which custody was contested because a soon-to-be divorced spouse was newly engaged to someone in a high risk profession, such as an emergency responder. Doctors, who often come into contact with COVID-19 patients may have to convince a judge that the risks of their profession are not a danger to the child.
Parents getting divorced may also want to build in videoconferencing, if there is concern about a child spending too much time with one parent due to COVID issues. Just as parenting plans address phone calls from children to the parent that the child is not with on a given night, so too must videoconferencing be considered—possibly as a temporary replacement for visitation, in some cases.
As schools open in certain areas of the country and in New Jersey, you can expect battles over whether the child will learn in person, or online, where there is a choice. Based on health concerns, or the need to leave the home to go to work, different parents may have different wishes about whether the child learns at home or in person.
All this does not even take into account what will happen when a vaccine is developed. You can anticipate fights over whether the child gets vaccinated if the parents disagree, and whether a parent who refuses to get the vaccine, will be at a disadvantage in custody cases.
Although COVID has changed the landscape of our entire lives, it has not changed how difficult it is to modify an existing custody agreement. We do not yet know whether a parent refusing to wear a mask or working in a high risk profession would be a change in circumstances that is significant enough to warrant a modification of a custody agreement.
We do not even know if a parent testing positive for COVID would mean, although it could be possible to temporarily modify an agreement on a temporary basis, if the health of the child is threatened.
Plan ahead for the child custody and visitation in your divorce. Contact The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC for help and guidance in your family law case if you are getting divorced with minor children of the marriage.