Emergency Sole Child Custody Orders Being Granted Against First Responders in Pandemic
The only family law issues that judges are making themselves available for at this time are emergency issues, such as domestic violence protection orders. In some cases, that also includes court orders granting one parent sole temporary custody of the children if a judge is convinced that one parent could expose the children to the coronavirus because they work as a doctor, firefighter, or other first responder engaged in the battle against the pandemic. Indeed, a number of those who are working on the front lines to help people right now are also parents, raising the question of whether their “reward” for helping those suffering from the virus is going to be having their children taken away from them. On the other side, in some of these cases, these concerns and requests for first responders to limit time with their children due to exposure risks can involve the other parent having an underlying health condition, who may also be concerned about their own health and being indirectly exposed to the virus as well. Indeed, the courts are invariably being put in a position of having to make the call between the rights of a parent and potential safety risks of a child, as well as any family members they may come into contact with.
That includes Florida, where some parents have filed emergency motions asking a judge to grant them sole custody for the length of the state’s “Safer at Home” order over concerns that their child’s other parent could expose the child to the virus due to their profession as a first responder. As a result, a number of doctors and other healthcare workers who are providing treatment – sometimes only via video conferencing as a precaution against the virus – are in some cases being denied the ability to see their children at this time, while frantically trying to assemble paperwork to reverse these orders.
Responding to Emergency Orders
In some cases, first responder parents may also be responding to these requests or orders with the contention that the other parent is perhaps pushing for them just for the sake of denying their agreed-upon time with the child after years of battling over parenting issues unrelated to the virus, and that it is wrong to deny a parent access to their child simply due to their job position. However, it is important to note that, at this time, it appears that a number of Florida judges have scheduled online hearings so that both parents can attend and have adequate time to prepare, as well as deciding to reverse orders once that the first responder parent can make the case that they have taken the proper precautions to prevent exposure.
Living In A Climate Without Established Rules
Still, unfortunately, there are few specific guidelines in place right now to help these parents except for very basic suggestions that families should try to follow established parenting plans and time sharing schedules to the best of their abilities. Florida too has not issued any specific child custody guidance. Some first responders live in fear that the courts could soon take after what some in California have done and require that the parent who works in emergency response produce a negative result from a coronavirus test every time they are scheduled to see their children, which is arguably an impossible requirement given how limited test availability is.
If You Have Questions or Concerns, Contact an Experienced Florida Child Custody Attorney
If you have concerns about splitting time with your children, I can help. With over 36 years of experience helping Florida clients in and out of court with custody issues, I have both your and your child’s best interests at heart. Contact the office of West Palm Beach family lawyer William Wallshein, P.A. today to schedule a safe, free consultation and find out more.