Pursuant to the Shelter-in-Place Order issued by Governor Kemp, the attorneys and staff of Johnson Kraeuter will be working remotely until such time as the Governor declares it safe and advisable to return to business as usual.

Our attorneys and staff remain available to meet all of our client needs via telephone or video conference.

Please click on the button below for a directory of phone numbers and email addresses of staff, current information about the Chatham County courthouse, and details about the matters that can still be addressed while we comply with the Shelter-In-Place order.
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SHARED PARENTING DURING A PANDEMIC

SHARED PARENTING DURING A PANDEMIC

During a pandemic, existing custody and visitation orders remain in effect. That means regularly scheduled visits should be occurring. A parent who prevents the non-custodial parent from visiting with the minor children could be held in contempt for violating the custody and visitation order. It is recommended that parents follow the school schedule while students are still engaged in distance learning. Once the school year officially ends, summer schedule should begin.

Parents need to use common sense when following existing orders during this pandemic. For instance, if parents normally exchange at 3 p.m. at the school, the exchange will need to occur at whatever place the child is while engaged in distance learning, not the school. Parents should communicate to confirm plans for exchanging the children to minimize confusion and frustration. Stability is important for children in these important times.

During the pandemic, you may have some concerns about following the existing custody and visitation order, including but not limited to:

  • My former or estranged spouse is an essential employee in the medical field, and I am scared my children will be exposed to the corona virus. Can I keep my children until the shelter in place order ends?
  • My former or estranged spouse is required to work, but I am able to work from home. Can I take over as primary physical custodian so I can supervise their children and their schooling while my estranged spouse works?
  • My former or estranged spouse has tested positive for coronavirus. Can I take over as primary physical custodian of the children? Am I required to allow visitation?
  • My former or estranged spouse is not ensuring the children are completing their distance learning lessons. Can I take over as primary physical custodian to ensure my children are receiving an education?
  • My former or estranged spouse refuses to let me see my children because of fears the children will be exposed to coronavirus. How do I enforce the visitation order?

These are very real issues for many parents. Ideally, both parents are more concerned with the safety and well-being of the children than about their own personal desires. Most custody and visitation orders allow the parents to mutually agree to modify the custody and visitation schedule as necessary to meet the needs of the children. NOTE: these provisions do not allow one parent to unilaterally dictate a new schedule, but they do permit parents to work together to protect the best interests of their children. So, ideally, the parents should be able to agree on how to address these concerns.

In the real world, however, parents do not always agree about the risks facing their families or about what is in the best interests of their children. Here are some guidelines for trying to resolve these issues:

  1. The first step is to try to reach an agreement with your former or estranged spouse. If you have a good co-parenting relationship, you can probably work out an agreement where the children will not go back and forth until after the immediate health risks subside, and the essential worker spouse will get to make up the time when it is safe to do so. Even if you think your spouse will not agree, you should reach out and at least attempt to reach an agreement. If you agree to modify the schedule, the new temporary schedule needs to be documented in writing in some form, whether that be email, text, or written contract.
  1. If you are unsuccessful in negotiating an agreement directly with your former or estranged spouse, contact your attorney. DO NOT WITHHOLD VISITATION WITHOUT SPEAKING TO YOUR ATTORNEY ABOUT THE RISKS OF VIOLATING A COURT ORDER. Your attorney can strategize various options, including but not limited to:
  • Negotiating with opposing counsel to reach an agreement about a temporary modified custody and visitation schedule.
  • Seeking an ex parte order to provide emergency relief if the children are in danger.
  • Filing a contempt action to enforce the terms of the custody and visitation agreement.
  • Filing a modification to modify the terms of the custody and visitation agreement.

The Statewide Judicial Emergency has been extended to May 13, 2020, which means courts will only be addressing essential emergency matters. For this reason, when the parents have concerns about following the existing order, the best approach is to negotiate an agreement about the best ways to handle custody and visitation during the pandemic. If you have specific questions about how to safely comply with your Order, contact Johnson Kraeuter today.