Keeping your family safe while following a custody order

While the current pandemic forces most families to stay at home, it can create anxious or contentious circumstances for some when it comes to following provisions outlined in a child custody arrangement.

Under Gov. Roy Cooper’s March 27 executive order, North Carolinians are ordered to stay at home except for travel involving “essential activities.” One of those activities is traveling from one parent’s home to the other’s for custody arrangements.

Five custody tips during a pandemic

While separated or divorced parents should abide by the terms of their custody agreement, courts generally allow some flexibility during trying times such as we’re experiencing now. Here are some considerations:

  • Location of an exchange: Many custody orders require parents to meet in a public place to transfer a child from one parent to another. While social distancing is in place, consider meeting in empty parking lots or curbside at one parent’s home.
  • Pre-existing conditions: If a parent or a child has been exposed to the virus, or has a health condition making them more susceptible, consider suspending the visits after receiving advice from your lawyer.
  • FaceTime visits: If it’s unsafe to continue in-person visits, set up routine video conferences using FaceTime, Skype or other programs, so both parents can still have meaningful interactions with their child.
  • Court access: The North Carolina Supreme Court has postponed all non-essential, non-emergency court hearings through at least June 1. If a custodial crisis arises, contact your lawyer to see whether it meets the criteria for an emergency hearing.
  • Custody modifications: Some parents may worry that changing a custody arrangement could lead to contempt of court charges. However, as long as both parents work together, courts will typically give them some leeway as long as they do their best to comply with the order during a stressful situation.

Prioritize your family’s safety

While a court order is meant to be followed, and you should try to do so even during a pandemic, communicate with the other parent over the best way to keep all family members safe. If modifications become necessary, make sure both parents are on the same page to remain actively involved in their child’s life.

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