Sharing Custody During a Pandemic: Navigating COVID-19 Risks
According to the National Library of Medicine, only 60 percent of children lived with their married biological parents in 2009 compared to 84 percent in 1970. This leaves about 40 percent of children potentially traveling between two households. As COVID-19 infection rates soar across the United States, this puts children and both sets of custodial parents at an increased risk of becoming infected or passing it on to other members of either household.
Sheltering in Place Contradicts Shared Custody Arrangements
The amount of COVID-19 cases is increasing in most states as of October 2020. Public health experts and local officials continue to recommend that people shelter in place in their homes and avoid close interactions with anyone from outside their household. Unfortunately, these recommendations are likely to contradict what’s spelled out in your custody arrangement. Your situation may become even more tenuous if you discover that your ex-partner’s household poses a serious COVID-19 risk.
Understand the Common COVID-19 Risks
It’s important to recognize what is and isn’t a COVID-19 risk. For example, if your ex-partner is a surgeon who operates on patients every day, or his or her current partner is an EMS worker who transports ill and injured people for 12 hours per day, several days per week, these are risks for COVID-19. Even if your ex-partner takes precautions, he or she does have a higher-than-average risk for contracting COVID-19 and bringing it home to the rest of the household, and possibly yours. In this case, your ex-spouse may say that he or she isn’t doing anything wrong, but you could petition for temporary full custody until a vaccine is available. You could also ask that your ex-partner self-quarantine for two weeks or get a negative COVID-19 test result before spending time around your child.
Take Action If You Learn About Risky Behaviors
You may also find out that your ex-partner isn’t taking the recommended public health precautions seriously. Perhaps your child told you that the other parent had a huge party with no social distancing. Maybe your ex-partner never wears a mask. These are high-risk behaviors that put your child at a much higher risk of getting COVID-19 and bringing it home to you after spending time with the other parent. If this is your situation, it’s important to speak with our divorce lawyer. You may have legal means of keeping your child out of harm’s way if you can prove that your ex-partner is endangering your child due to a disregard for public health measures.
Be Flexible During an Urgent Situation
During these times, you’ll need to be flexible. Perhaps your ex-spouse was exposed to someone with COVID-19 or develops symptoms and seeks a test. While waiting on the test result, they should self-isolate. If you find out your ex-partner is self-isolating due to COVID-19, it’s your right to seek a temporary halt to visitation.
What You Can Do After the Fact
If you’ve been sharing custody since the COVID-19 crisis was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, you’re likely already stressed and fatigued. Now isn’t the time to let your guard down. COVID-19 will take advantage of any lapse in preventive measures. If your child comes back to your home after a weekend with the other parent, and you find out that the other parent is sick, you may be able to take action and protect your child under Pennsylvania law. The situation can be complicated because of HIPAA, but if you believe your child was exposed to COVID-19 by your ex-partner, it’s your right to have your child tested.
You need to make important decisions about the health and well-being of your child and family. The Law Office of Joanne Kleiner offers legal counsel to help you navigate these challenging times. To schedule a consultation with our divorce lawyer in Jenkintown, call (215) 886-1266, or complete our online contact form.