During the COVID-19 health crisis, families face unprecedented times and unchartered territory. From stay-at-home orders to distance learning for children, parents are navigating new responsibilities and challenges. Our day-to-day has dramatically changed, which also impacts co-parenting for those who share custody of their children.
To assist families with custody and/or visitation orders, the North Carolina Family Court Advisory Commission issued the following recommendations: (*Please note that these recommendations are not intended to apply to child custody orders entered pursuant to a Chapter 50B Domestic Violence Protective Order.)
- Parenting Plan or Custody Order. Parties should continue to follow their parenting plan or custody order as written while such orders are in effect, unless otherwise directed by the Governor or other executive or judicial order.
- Denial of Parenting Time. The spread of COVID-19, in and of itself, is not a reason to deny parenting time.
- Parties should review their custody order or consult with their attorney concerning exchanges. Additional circumstances may exist that would alter each party’s responsibilities as they relate to custody (e.g., if the parties are ordered to exchange a child through a facility that has suspended services due to the pandemic).
- Definition of Spring Break, Summer Break, Vacation, and Holidays. While the schools are closed, parenting time shall continue as if the child(ren) are still attending school in accordance with the regular school calendar of the relevant district.
- Safety-Related Issues. If a parent or party with custody or visitation rights is diagnosed with COVID-19 or displays symptoms related to COVID-19, or a member of his or her household is diagnosed with or displays symptoms related to COVID-19, the other party should be notified as soon as possible. Families should work together to ensure the best interest of the child(ren) while also following the advice of their healthcare provider(s).
- Unless the parties are restrained from communicating by a court order, parents are encouraged to communicate about precautions they are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of the child(ren). A parent is not permitted to deny parenting time based upon the other parent’s unwillingness to discuss their precautionary measures taken, or a parent’s belief that the other parent’s precautions are insufficient.
- Parenting Time in Public Places. If the parenting plan states that parenting time will occur in a public place, parenting time should continue at locations that are permitted under Governor Cooper’s order and in accordance with health and safety guidelines, such as a large park.
- Supervised Parenting Time. If parenting time is ordered to be supervised and the supervisor is unavailable due to pandemic-related issues or other government orders, parenting time should be conducted virtually via videoconferencing (g., WebEx, Skype, or FaceTime) or by telephone.
In North Carolina, Governor Cooper’s executive “stay at home” Order prohibits nonessential travel but allows for “travel between one’s place or places of residence for purposes including, but not limited to, child custody or visitation arrangements.” Parties should continue to follow their parenting plan or custody order, unless otherwise directed by the Governor or other executive or judicial order. Parents are encouraged to check travel restrictions, and to stay informed about preventive health measures (such as social distancing and wearing masks). To the extent possible, parents should follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control. To read the recommendations from the North Carolina Family Court Advisory Commission, go to https://bit.ly/2KrC8TD.
If you have questions or concerns, contact a family law attorney at Dozier Miller Law Group. We are available to assist existing and new clients by phone, email, and video conferences. To learn more visit our website: https://doziermillerlaw.com/practice-areas/family-law/
This information is provided for informational purposes only; it is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice.