Marilyn Chinitz is a matrimonial and family law attorney, and has been practicing law for more than 35 years.
As an experienced negotiator, Chinitz has dealt with complex divorces and custody battles, and knows the toll these proceedings can take on children caught in the middle.
With the global outbreak of the coronavirus, parents who share custody and may even live in different countries are being faced with tough decisions as to how best ensure the well-being of their children.
Chinitz explains how courts will approach custody battles differently due to COVID-19, and how parents can best advocate for their child’s safety.
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As parents, we want to do everything we can to protect our children from pain, unhappiness, bad experiences, and from rejection, hurt feelings, and disappointments. Now there is something new that we must protect them from: The risk of getting sick or infecting others with the coronavirus while their parents are in divorce litigation, fighting over their custody, visitation, and access rights.
Seven million residents of the Bay Area in California have been ordered to “shelter in place.” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is warning New Yorkers to prepare for such an order as well. News reports advise to stay at home if possible, but many parents are facing an added complication. During a divorce and certainly afterward, children commonly shuttle back and forth between each parent’s household based upon a court-ordered visitation or parenting schedule. What happens if one parent or their household becomes infected with the coronavirus? What happens when a parent or a household member lives in a community with an outbreak or has been exposed to an infected person but shows no signs of being infected?
Though life as we know it is sharply off-kilter, we need to use common sense and evaluate our true motivations. Local and national authorities advise us to avoid public transportation when possible, limit non-essential travel, skip play dates and social gatherings, and avoid close contact with people. But what about a child’s time with their non-custodial parent?
How will a court handle a parent’s refusal to turn over a child to the other parent in such circumstances? How certain must a threat of infection be to justify a parent’s refusal to comply with court-ordered access time?
Failing to comply with court-ordered parenting time poses a risk of contempt for parents. Weighing that risk against the potential life and death consequences of contracting and sharing coronavirus is something that the court is now grappling with, and it weighs heavily on the minds of parents of who want to spend time with their children in the face of a threat of transmission to the child.
Clearly, if a parent is infected with the coronavirus, a court will not insist that that parent have access to the child during this time. It is only common sense. The more attenuated the concern that a child can contract coronavirus, however, the more difficult it is to justify …read more
Source:: Business Insider