How Do Stay-At-Home Orders Impact Your Custody Rights?
The recently enacted Stay at Home Orders for Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the Washington, DC metropolitan area pose many questions for divorced and separated parents who share custody of their children.
Below is a list of FAQs on how to comply with these Orders while still following your agreed to (whether formally or informally) custody arrangements.
Should I still follow my Custody Agreement/Order?
Yes, the terms of your custody order or agreement are still in full force and effect. However, you should also recognize that individual accommodations and deviations will be necessary to ensure everyone’s safety;
- Regularly stay in touch with your co-parent about your health, your child’s health, and members of your household’s health.
- If anyone in your household is not feeling well, let the other parent know.
- If you typically utilize a mid-point exchange location, you should arrange for pick up and drop off directly from the other parent’s home, if that is safe option.
- If a parent is not feeling well or unable to exercise parenting time, the other parent should offer reasonable make-up time.
Try to use your best judgment and avoid the potential for disputes with your co-parent, as down the road a Judge will not look kindly on a parent who does not make reasonable accommodations for his or her co-parent during this time of crisis.
Is it okay to travel between DC, Maryland, and Virginia to get my child from the other parent?
If you live in a different jurisdiction from your co-parent, carry a copy of your Court Order, Custody Agreement, or a letter from your attorney with you, just in case you need to explain the purpose of your travel across state lines. Know the basics of the CDC guidelines and the Stay at Home Orders of the jurisdictions where you and your co-parent live, and make reasonable adjustments to your timesharing arrangements as necessary to comply with all requirements.
Since school is closed for the remainder of the year, does my summer custodial time start now?
Many local jurisdictions have remote learning in place. For as long as remote learning is in place, you should operate under your regular school-year custodial schedule. This will provide your child with stability and keep them in the routine they are accustomed to while in school during these otherwise unpredictable times.
Am I permitted to travel during Spring Break this year?
Travel for vacation in another state is not essential activity under any of the local Stay at Home Orders. If it is your Spring Break with your child this year, you can still exercise your custodial time with your child at home. Alternatively, if you were planning on traveling with your child, see if your co-parent will provide you with a make-up travel week later in the year when circumstances allow for travel again. If they agree to this, you can continue to maintain your normal custodial schedule during Spring Break and enjoy travel with your child once the restrictions are lifted.
If you do not have a custody order or a formal custody agreement and are concerned about possible disputes with your co-parent while the Stay at Home Orders remain in effect, it may be a good idea to have a signed interim agreement in place that spells out your timesharing schedule and other appropriate logistics of your co-parenting arrangement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will continue to closely monitor all major developments and provide you with up to date specific guidance as we all progress through this unprecedented time. Please contact one of our family law attorneys for more information about the impact of the stay-at-home orders for the District of Columbia, Virginia, or Maryland.