Parents with child custody agreements may face temporary loss of child custody, if they are essential workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Child Custody for Essential Workers
Essential workers including medical professionals (doctors, nurses, paramedics, technicians), police officers, firefighters, and other first responders put their lives on the line every day treating COVID-19 patients.
Essential workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic face significant health risks from exposure to the virus. Essential workers who are divorced parents now face another significant risk, losing custody of their children because of their jobs. This may force many parents to make a choice between their children and the professional oath they swore to protect and serve.
Parents who share child custody are worried about COVID-19 health risks, when one parent is an essential worker with direct exposure to coronavirus patients. Although most essential workers/parents have taken every precaution necessary to limit exposure to their children, some co-parents are challenging child custody agreements.
In some cases, essential workers are facing court orders for temporary loss of child custody. In Florida, an emergency room doctor has temporarily lost custody of her daughter because she has been treating coronavirus patients. A Florida court recently issued an emergency order granting her ex-husband full custody of their 4-year-old daughter until further notice.
COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are creating concerns for co-parenting families with shared child custody arrangments. Family law attorneys are being consulted by many families looking for guidance about child custody during the coronavirus pandemic. For many divorced parents, social distancing and stay-at-home orders are complicating court-ordered child custody agreements.
Most courts around the country are closed due to the coronavirus stay-at-home orders. However, they are urging divorced parents with children to follow court orders and abide by child custody agreements. State courts and family law attorneys are urging parents to treat custody exchanges as essential. Parents are urged to follow arranged parenting time agreements, unless illness of one parent causes health risks for the child. If one parent has tested positive or is showing symptoms for COVID-19, personal visitation with that parent should be avoided to protect the child’s health.
Court responses to essential workers and child custody are varied. While many courts are saying that increased risk of coronavirus exposure is not enough to suspend custody rights, other courts are modifying or suspending custody due to increased health risks for the child.