Connecticut Child Custody and Visitation During COVID-19
COVID-19 is a tremendously stressful situation that is pushing people to the edge. We are seeing many reports of people who are taking advantage of COVID-19 related excuses to withhold or suspend child visitation. In other situations, the suspension of school classes has created tremendous disruption for parents who are employed in essential businesses and who have to report to work. The Governor has imposed "shelter in place" orders to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state by imposing social distancing.
Many residents of our state have lost loved ones to the virus or have family members who are ill or recovering from the virus. Children are also suffering from stress and have had their lives disrupted.
This is not a good time for children to see their parents arguing with each other over visitation. Parents should try and come to a compromise, if possible, about visitation plans during the COVID-19 crisis. A little give and take and compromise would better suit your children's needs and make you look better in the eyes of a judge when courts open.Custody and Visitation Orders During COVID-19
Court orders generally must be followed until they are modified by further order of the court. The reality is that no court order can micromanage every conceivable situation that may occur in life. A global pandemic is one such eventuality that has not been anticipated in custody and visitation orders. Accordingly, the existing orders must be interpreted and adjusted to consider current developments while always understanding that the "best interests of the minor child" is the standard that a court would always use to decide any dispute.
Many parents who are co-parenting are struggling with recent changes. Many changes have to be made to parenting plans to take into consideration the cancelation of school for children and modification of work schedules of parents due to stay at home orders. It is important to remember that both temporary or pendente lite and permanent court custody and visitation orders must be followed. An intentional and willful violation of a court order can lead to a contempt filing. While the courts are presently closed, eventually, a violation of a parenting agreement may result in sanctions including the awarding of counsel fees.
Any court is going to afford a wide degree of tolerance to adjust parenting arrangements where strict adherence to the existing court order would not make any sense and would not be in the child's best interests. A court would allow latitude to swap days and visitation times to accommodate the work schedule of parents during the crisis. However, many people are trying to use the crisis as an excuse to alienate the other parent and attempt to restrict access to the child using the health crisis as an excuse. In these situations, when the courts re-open, the parties may find themselves facing sanctions.Family Courts are Functioning on a Limited Basis
The courts are presently not hearing motions for contempt or modifications. While a motion can be efiled or now filed in a lockbox and a date later assigned, no one knows at this point when these matters will be heard by the courts. Since the family court has been shut down for several weeks, there is going to be a huge backlog of cases and significant delays in having hearing dates assigned for contested motions when courts re-open. It is very likely that when courts re-open, it will be on a limited basis for some time, and matters will be prioritized.Mediation is Highly Recommended
It is always recommended that parents reach agreements on disputed matters involving their children. If parents can't reach an agreement on their own, it would be an excellent time to explore the possibility of working with a mediator to come to a mutually agreeable resolution. If your divorce lawyers can't work out a resolution of the dispute, you might want to have a third-party act as a mediator to try and help the parties reach an agreement. Mediation can save a lot of money in legal fees, stress, and wasted time and resources.We're Here to Help
Attorney Allan F. Friedman has 28 years of experience in family law matters, including child custody and visitation disputes. Attorney Friedman is working remotely now and is available for free consultations to discuss your specific questions if you need assistance. Attorney Friedman is accepting clients in family matters, including divorce, alimony, and child support disputes, as well as working as a mediator to help parents resolve parenting disputes. Attorney Friedman is happy to arrange free phone and video consultations. Stay healthy!
Call Attorney Friedman at (203) 357-5555 to schedule your free initial consultation and case evaluation. Or you can contact us online for a prompt response.