Coronavirus: Must I Comply With Custody Orders?
My phones have been ringing off the hook about custody orders versus Safer at Home Orders. As you know, all of us in Los Angeles County (as well as many other counties and states) are under very strict Safer at Home Orders for Control of COVID-19.
The entire State of California is under Newsom’s Executive Order. The order gives the state the ability to increase the health care capacity in clinics, mobile health care units and adult day health care facilities. It also allows local governments more flexibility to utilize the skills of retired employees and reinforces the importance of the delivery of food, medicine and emergency supplies.
We are not allowed out BUT for essential activities such as visiting the doctor, going grocery shopping, picking up food, and walking pets, etc. ALL non-essential businesses have been SHUT down.
So what about custody exchanges???
Custody Orders v. Stay at Home Orders – which one to follow?
If you share custody pursuant to a custody order, it is imperative that you get on the same page as the other parent, stat. Clearly, at times this is impossible. But as a family lawyer, I am telling you – ALL of this nonsense unreasonableness MUST STOP.
If you live within close vicinity of one another, and have pretty equal parenting time, this is PROBABLY NOT the time to get petty and withhold visitation.
If you have long distance visitation, and not as equal parenting time, this is PROBABLY NOT the time to get petty and DEMAND your once a month.
Different Advice, Different Lawyers
Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic and coronavirus is a case of first impression, on the economy, the world, and ALL OF OUR LIVES. We are all completely shut down.
If you MUST consult a lawyer before you make your decisions (so the lawyer is under liability for what they advise), then you should know there are different lawyers that will advise different things. It is not malpractice. This is the grey area of law that unfortunately, no one will have an answer for unless it is litigated, and appealed, many many years later.
Personally, I think that you guys should use your own discretion. BEST INTERESTS OF YOUR CHILD. If the risk of travel outweighs the benefit of your normal custodial schedule, negotiate MAKEUP time.
In the event that you are the custodial parent who is getting the majority of time during COVID-19, BE REASONABLE and allow for generous make-up time.
If you are the non-custodial parent, consider skipping the visitation in the best interests of your child, but in writing, have makeup time after.
If you have a custody order to share visitation, and the OTHER SIDE HAS CORONAVIRUS but still demands visitation, what do you do?
(As an aside, this is nuts to me, but I’ve been practicing for 20+ years, and nothing surprises me anymore!)
If you do not want to risk being in violation of the Orders, the best thing to do is to go in ex parte to modify the visitation orders. This would be a proper situation for ex parte under Family Code 3064, as clearly if the other side has COVID-19, this is a risk of immediate harm to your child if you comply.
We are all trapped in our homes, surrounded by the darkness of the world. I pray that you guys will look out for your family. This, too, shall pass. We need to all do our parts to enable it to pass sooner rather than later.