Navigating Visitation and COVID-19
Amid the spreading COVID-19 pandemic that has hit the United States and the subsequent shelter-in-place orders issued worldwide, residents everywhere are struggling to adapt to the new reality surrounding us. Non-essential staff in just about every industry have been sent home to work from there and besides the brave health-care workers and first responders on the frontlines every day, most New Yorkers are social distancing to stop the spread of the virus.
Self-isolation orders have also locked down schools everywhere and in New York City, schools will remain closed through the end of the school year. The majority of federal and state courthouses have closed temporarily; and in an abundance of caution, the New York City court system has limited its processing to only emergency cases and hearings. While the new rules in place do not affect existing custody and visitation orders, this does not mean compliance won’t become challenging for some families.
Article Written By Jessica H. Ressler. All Rights Reserved
Here are some common questions with answers that will help you navigate your child custody and visitation rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
My ex is not practicing self-isolation and has been exposed to COVID-19. What can I do to keep him/her from putting my child at risk when during visitation?
New York’s court system has stated that parents should oblige by their existing arrangements during this pandemic, and it is clear that there will be no tolerance for violations. As such, the best thing you can do is to stress the importance of keeping your child(ren) safe and healthy and try to come up with alternative solutions together.
Can I adjust visitation with my ex while the social distancing order is in effect without going to court?
While existing custody orders and visitation arrangements must be obeyed during the pandemic, this is something that can be resolved with some communication and flexibility.
My ex is an essential personnel/healthcare worker and has been exposed to the virus. He/she has agreed to postpone visitation until it is safe, but my child is upset and constantly worried. What can I do to ease my child’s mind without putting them at risk?
Children are really taking the brunt of this pandemic. They are out of school, out of routine and immersed in a very scary world. Most importantly, normalize their daily routine. Try connecting them daily with your ex. You can call or text, or make video calls via Facetime or Zoom. Checking in with the parent they are worried about and seeing them safe may do wonders to minimize stress.
The constant news and images of people dying from COVID-19 have my child terrified of exposure. They don’t even want to leave to have visitation with my ex. How can I help my child get acclimated to what’s going on without forcing them to abide by a court order?
Right now, children are existing in a literal limbo- witnessing constant discussions about the virus and its effect and not understanding what it all means. First, talk to your child openly and try to ease their worries. Constant stress is unhealthy, especially for children. Let them know that while concern is understandable, they have to find healthier ways to manage the fear. Have your child create letters, cards and hand-made gifts to send to your ex while they are apart. They can even create them to send to hospitals for the healthcare workers on the frontlines. Giving and spreading joy is a great way to help your child feel useful and valued.
I am a health-care worker/first responder exposed to the virus daily. I am careful about my exposure however, and I want to see my child per my court-ordered visitation. My ex won’t let me though. What can I do?
As a first responder, you are one of the brave fighters on the frontlines helping us all come out of this is one piece. But you have to keep in mind that the threat is very real and as such, the risk of infection to your child is very real. If the shoe were on the other foot, you’d be worried for your child’s safety too; try to remember that. If you and your ex can’t come to a reasonable resolution that keeps everyone safe until everything returns to normal, you do have options. If you are concerned about a potential threat to your existing custody or visitation arrangement, reach out to Ressler & Associates for advice.
These are strange times and with the rules to keep us safe constantly changing, you may need the help of the court system to keep your family safe and healthy. Most conflicts can be solved with some flexibility and communication. But if you find that resolution can’t be reached without court intervention, you should reach out to the experienced attorneys at Ressler & Associates for advice. They can guide you as you navigate custody and visitation in this uncertain arrangement Navigating this new normal can be tricky, especially for divorced families; a little common-sense and a lot of patience will go a long way. Feel free to contact Ressler & Associates for help.