New York Coronavirus and Custody Lawyer
As a parent, your primary goal is to do what is best for your children. You want to keep your children happy and healthy. You make decisions that will protect your children from pain, sadness, worry, and illness. COVID-19 is something new to all of us and parents are desperate to protect their children from it. The rapid spread of the virus throughout New York, the United States, and the world has created a novel problem for parents who share parenting time pursuant to a court ordered custody agreement. The fear of getting sick or infecting others with coronavirus has added another layer of concern and anxiety to situations that are often already fraught with anxiety and frustration. With New Yorkers ordered by the Governor to “pause” and stay at home, parents are facing difficult decisions that may have an impact on ongoing divorce litigation, custody battles, and access rights. To make matters even more challenging, at the moment courts are not available to answer questions and resolve conflicts. If you are worried about allowing the other parent of your child to have access while the stay-at-home order is in place, or if you are being denied access to your child, contact an experienced New York child custody lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss your legal options.Custody dilemmas raise by pandemic
Coronavirus has upset sometimes delicate custody arrangements that were working. Court-ordered custody and visitation orders can be detailed and complex, taking into consideration the best interests of the child and the relationship of the parents. While doing their best to co-parent, in some cases the bitterness between the parents has not dissipated. The co-parenting arrangement reflects that, requiring parents to interact directly with each other as little as possible. Instead, the parents look to the language of the custody agreement for guidance. When problems arise, they turn to Family Court. At the moment that is not possible.
Parents often rely on public places for custody exchanges. These places are typically convenient for both parents, and because they are public, there will less likely be displays of anger during the exchange. Places such as schools, movie theaters, restaurants, churches, and community centers are now closed, leaving parents to figure out where to peacefully complete the custody exchange.
What about custody arrangements that require air travel? What about parents who live on different coasts or in different countries? There is currently a coronavirus-related travel ban to over 20 European countries and there are many countries that are restricting entry. This means that it simply is not possible to comply with some international visitation agreements. Parents who live outside of New York may have concerns about allowing their children to travel to New York for visitation as New York has a particularly high number of confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The answers to these questions are not easy and may be different for each family. It would be wise to connect with an experienced New York child custody lawyer if you and your child’s other parent are having trouble figuring out how to best to handle parental access during the coronavirus restrictions.Comply with your custody agreement
The best approach to co-parenting right now is the same as prior to the restrictions. Stick to the terms of the custody agreement as closely as you can, given the restrictions of the “stay-at-home” order and social distancing. As an experienced child custody attorney serving New York will explain, failure to comply with a court-ordered parenting access time will put you at risk of being cited for contempt.
Of course, you must also keep your child, yourself, and others in your household safe. Clearly, if the other parent has been infected with the virus or if someone in his or her household has been, they should be self-quarantining, and you should not put your child at risk. Similarly, if you learn that the other parent or someone in his or her household has been exposed to the virus, they should be self-quarantining, and you should not put your child at risk.
What if the other parent does not have the virus and there is no evidence that he or she has been exposed? What if you fear that the other parent has not been practicing social distancing, washing hands properly, or taking other precautions to avoid being exposed to the virus?
The court will not recommend that you put your child at risk. However, the more attenuated the fear that your child can contract the virus, the more challenging it will be to justify withholding access, particularly if it appears that your concern is heavily influenced by negative feelings toward the other parent. The other parent may question your intentions and the court will closely review your motivations in limiting your child’s access to the other parent. To prepare for the inevitable court challenge, document everything and be prepared with evidence to support your conclusion that limiting or denying access was necessary to reduce the risk of your child contracting the virus.Working together
Working together to co-parent may be more necessary during this crisis than other times. In addition to being faced with the real possibility of getting sick, children are not in school and many parents are not working and have lost their income. Schedules and routines have been upset and many resources are limited. The parenting schedule that you agreed upon may simply not work during the crisis. Being flexible may be in the best interests of the child. Use creative ways to continue to have time with your child even if you are not able to physically be with your child.
If one parent’s access to the child has been limited or suspended because of the virus, after the restrictions are lifted the parent whose access was limited can petition the court for additional access to make up for the missed parenting time.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
It may be difficult and even unsafe to continue with the visitation schedule that was ordered by the court long before the coronavirus restrictions became an everyday reality. While it would be ideal to continue with the same visitation schedule, doing so may not be possible and may not be in the best interests of your child. If you have concerns about managing your custody arrangement during the coronavirus-related restrictions, contact an experienced child custody attorney in New York at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. With over 20 years of experience, we are here to help. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Nassau County, Suffolk, County, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Westchester County.