Navigating Child Custody and COVID-19

Posted On June 17, 2020 Children,Custody,Family Law

We are all facing unprecedented times, as the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, and regulations regarding safe practices change daily. One thing on the mind of many parents is the matter of shared custody, and whether or not to keep their child away from the other parent in order to follow CDC guidelines of social distancing. As with any custody agreement, the needs and safety of the child come first. However, it may be difficult to know how courts will react to parents violating shared-custody orders.  

Do Parents Need to Follow their Parenting Plan?

Although the present crisis was unimaginable when shared-custody agreements were arranged, it’s best for parents to follow the rules set out in the court-ordered plan, unless they or someone in their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19, was exposed, or has traveled to a country in which a significant amount of the population has the virus. Violating a custody agreement, or what is referred to as custodial interference by the state of Washington, can be risky. When courts resume, a judge could potentially reduce visitation or interfere with that parent’s custody rights.  

If you do decide to deny a co-parent’s right to physical custody, you must have a real palpable reason for doing so, in hopes that the family court will agree that your decision was reasonable. Many judges view times of crises as critical periods to maintain some form of normality in children’s lives.

Co-Parenting Responsibilities During COVID-19

While it can be challenging to accept and adjust to sudden change, parenting that prioritizes the health of your child is the best approach right now. With that comes the responsibility to: 

  • Follow your parenting plan as closely as possible. 
  • Follow the CDC guidelines for washing hands, wiping down surfaces, and social distancing. 
  • Communicate with the other parent regarding any concerns. If the relationship is amicable, work together on temporarily modifying the custody agreement and/or child support payments until the public health threat diminishes.
  • Inform the other parent if your child could be or has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • Put everything in writing and keep good notes.
  • If a parent is refusing to exercise their residential time, there is no way to force them to see their child. 

Now more than ever, it is important to band together to navigate through this pandemic. 

Procedure for Temporary & Emergency Hearings in Spokane

Effective June 16, 2020, all family law motions on the Tuesday through Friday family law motion dockets can proceed via Zoom video conferencing, according to Spokane County Superior Court Emergency Orders. The procedure for doing so are as follows: 

Confirm Hearing as Ready

By 4:00 p.m. and three court days prior to the scheduled hearing, you must confirm the hearing as “ready,” by either: 

Immediately upon receiving the court’s Order setting the hearing, especially if it is set by the court with less than 3 days before the hearing, you must confirm you are ready. If applicable, you must provide a Joint status sheet, information on any scheduling conflicts, and contact information for all attorneys or parties involved, at that time. 

Time and Zoom ID

The day before the hearing is scheduled to take place, the time and Zoom meeting ID can be found on the Superior Court’s docket calendar online. 

Tips for Attending a Hearing on Zoom

  • Position yourself in a quiet area so you can hear and be heard.
  • Be conscious of your surroundings and what will be seen by everyone else in the background of your video.  
  • Log on 10 minutes before the time of your hearing. 
  • If you have technical issues, phone information to call in can be found on this instruction sheet.
  • Have your email address ready in case you’re representing yourself and would like a copy of the order. 

Get Help from a Spokane Family Law Attorney

The skilled child custody attorneys at Twyford Law Office can help you do what it takes to protect your child. For more information and a free consultation, contact us through our online form or by calling (509) 327-0777.  

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