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Child Custody & Visitation If a Parent Gets COVID-19?

by | May 12, 2020 | child custody and support, News and Events

The coronavirus pandemic has upended life in New York, and every corner of the state is feeling the effects, including Long Island. How does the pandemic affect your child custody and visitation orders, especially if you or your ex get sick? Here’s what you should know.

Will Visitation Carry On As Normal During the Pandemic?

If you, your ex, and your child are feeling well and do not appear to be sick, there’s no reason to alter your visitation schedule. You should practice social distancing in other ways, such as ordering groceries online and staying home when at all possible. However, if you’re well, you and your ex can — and should — still pick up and drop off your child according to your original child custody court orders.


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I’m Showing Signs of the Coronavirus — Should I Tell My Child’s Other Parent?

If you begin to feel unwell and either currently have visitation with your child or your visitation is upcoming, it’s important that you inform the other parent as soon as possible.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms of the coronavirus include but are not limited to:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Or at least two of the following symptoms

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Sick with COVID-19? Practice Social Distancing with Visitation

If you have a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus or are isolating at home per doctor’s orders without having had a test, don’t continue to visit with your child in person. Stay at home and quarantine yourself as best you can while you recover to avoid spreading the virus.

Consider creative ways to continue to visit with your child, such as connecting over text and FaceTime or Zoom. Work with your child’s other parent to arrange times that work for everyone while you’re not feeling well.

What If My Child Has the Coronavirus?

If you suspect your child has the coronavirus, they will need medical care as soon as possible. If both you and your ex have legal custody over your child, you’ll both be able to make medical decisions regarding your child. However, if you only have partial physical custody, only the legal guardian will be able to make decisions about medical care.

Typically, an ill child will want or need to be with their primary custodian, which means you may need to forfeit some of your visitation time.

Will I Be at Risk of Violating My Long Island Custody Order If I Don’t Follow the Visitation Schedule?

Technically, any parent who violates a child custody order can be held in contempt of court. This means if you don’t pick up your child at the appropriate time or you keep your child longer than your allotted time, you could end up in legal trouble.

How courts will treat this during COVID-19 is not yet known, however, it’s unlikely that a custody order will be strictly upheld if the virus impedes following it to the letter. The most important thing is to keep yourself and your family healthy and avoid contributing to the spread of the virus.

Is There a Risk of Parental Kidnapping for Custodial Parents Who Deny Visitation to Co-Parents with Coronavirus?

If you’re the primary custodian of your child and the other parent contracts COVID-19 or begins to show symptoms of it, you may need to restrict their access to your child for your child’s safety as well as your own. However, doing so is a legal risk under current laws and is considered parental kidnapping. It’s not likely that a judge will order a penalty if you can prove that you denied visitation due to COVID-19, but you may need to have evidence available if the noncustodial parent reports it.

When to Involve an Experienced Family Law Attorney

It’s always in your best interest to work with a family lawyer to make sure any changes to your visitation or custody orders are within the letter of the law. If you need to temporarily modify your custody order to accommodate coronavirus restrictions, contact Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. today for a free consultation. Call now at 631-923-1910.


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