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If My Child is Sick During COVID-19, Can I Deny Visitation or Custody Arrangements?

For those wondering whether you’re able to deny child custody or visitation arrangements during the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic, this one’s for you.  Child custody and visitation exchanges are exempt from the Governor of Virginia’s stay-at-home order. While school is out, working together to create a predictable and concrete schedule for custody and visitation can reduce stress and bring both parents and children comfort.  However, practicing common sense during these exchanges is key while the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic is ongoing.  Before the child returns, ask everyone in the house to do a symptom check.  Let the child go from house to car or vice versa, so that the parents remain six feet apart.  Have the child wash his or her hands upon returning to your home.

If your child presents symptoms of being sick during visitation, alert your co-parent immediately and follow the guidance of your child’s doctor.  If your doctor recommends quarantine, this should likely take place at the home where the child first started showing symptoms after a full and honest discussion between the parents.  Please be reasonable about this, if one parent is still working full time while the other parent is not, perhaps the parent who is not working would be better able to provide care for sick child.  Where would the child be most comfortable, cared for and entertained?  If agreed upon, this quarantine can minimize exposure and germ transfer unless there are other safety and health concerns at that residence.  Further, if you have an attorney, keep them updated and seek counsel so they can address these issues early to avoid any accusations of withholding the child that may arise or discuss alternative solutions.

This may be a harsh reality for one parent, but COVID-19 should not be spread to both households if possible.  If one parent gets sick, the other should strive to remain healthy and ready to assume care of the child.  Parents should work together on creative solutions for visitation in such situations. Whether it is daily online visitation, extra weekends or holidays, or make-up time during the summer, there are many creative solutions to keep both parents involved, safe, and informed.

The last few months have been uncharted territory in child custody and visitation.  No one can predict how courts will rule on any custodial issues that arise during this time once court hearings resume.  However, courts are less likely to issue a finding of contempt when a parent can demonstrate attempted cooperation and communication with the co-parent.  Remember that your child’s best interests are the most important considerations.  Providing children with a sense of security, support and unity from both parents will help to promote a sense of peace for your children.  This is of equal importance to all precautions taken due to Coronavirus.

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