Arkansas Child Custody During The Coronavirus
Many parents are asking questions about child visitation schedules and the Coronavirus. Below are common questions and basic guidelines. Overall, it is best to follow the court order. Remember that the judge’s duty is to consider what is in the best interest of the child (link to article) and Arkansas law wants children to have time with both parents.
Now is the time to be flexible. When in doubt, co-parent.
Do I have to follow court ordered visitation during the Coronavirus?
Yes, follow the visitation schedule as closely as possible.
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is unexpected. Few, if any, visitation orders before March 2020 mention a public health crisis. Your judge will expect you to follow the court order. Of course, some adjustments may be necessary. Try to figure out ways to accommodate both parents and the child.
If the judge decides you used the coronavirus to change an agreement without the other parent’s consent, you are probably going to pay for it. Many courts around the country agree that coronavirus outbreak is not enough, on its own, to justify emergency custody changes.
For example, courts in Tennessee, Texas, California, Illinois and Ohio issued specific orders stating that visitation schedules are to be followed during the coronavirus pandemic. If you have an Arkansas order, this is a good indication of how your judge will rule.
The school year ended early, how does that change my visitation?
It doesn’t. Follow your court ordered schedule. If the other parent has summer visitation, look at your school’s 2020 calendar and follow it. If you do not have court ordered visitation but have a standard routine, try to stick to it.
What if the other parent lives or works somewhere with many coronavirus cases?
You may be very concerned if the other parent works in healthcare, a grocery store or lives in New York City. Your concern is valid but may not be enough to justify a change.
If you believe there is the threat of immediate harm to the child, consult an attorney. The courts are still hearing emergency orders, but your basis for having a court hearing should be strong.
Okay, then what should I do?
Working with the other parent is already the best way to manage child custody. Yes, you should follow the court order. However, most orders allow the parents to make changes by agreement.
Accommodating stay-at-home orders and staying healthy may require significant changes to visitation. Parents should document all changes in writing. Consult an attorney to make sure the change is clear and not in violation of any previous orders.
If you do not have court ordered visitation, now is a good time to consult an attorney, by phone or video, to discuss a written agreement or agreed order.