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The Coronavirus Brings a Number of Custody Complications for Some Divorce Parents


As attorneys who practice family law here in Florida, we have been fielding a number of questions related to the coronavirus over the last few weeks, especially those related to child custody issues (or time sharing/parenting plans, as they are referred to in Florida). Many parents went from trying to figure out what to do with their kids being home from school for the first few days, to outright panic in figuring out long-term plans because their existing orders do not include ‘pandemic’ clauses. The fact that a number of Florida family and courts are closed and/or proceedings have been paused has only added to the panic.

In fact, this has become such a serious issue in some states that at least one state supreme court had to issue an emergency order directing parents to revert to their original child custody schedules as though there was no pandemic and schools were not closed. Still, this does not address a number of unique issues that often come up in family law cases, such as what to do if your order contains any child care provisions, requiring that one parent has the right of first refusal, while the other parent now requires child care for more than eight hours, etc. In addition, child custody issues are not the only ones that have been put on hold in the wake of the coronavirus: Alimony, spousal support, divorce, modifications, and anything else that requires filing has also been put on hold.

Those Who Work In Healthcare Especially Affected

Issues appear to be especially problematic right now for those who work in healthcare and first responders. For example, for some of these workers, the other parent is refusing to honor the parenting schedule and allow the child to spend time with the parent who works in healthcare out of fear that the coronavirus could be spread to the child. In fact, for some divorced parents, this has reached drastic levels, with some parents taking extreme and even criminal measures to prevent the other parent from spending time with the child, such as pulling a gun on them or taking the child out of the country.

Legally Speaking, Original Custody Orders Must Be Honored

While of course, when it comes to enforcement actions taken against parents, the specific jurisdiction is important (for example, some will take the preference of an older child and which household they want to live in more seriously than others), parents need to remember that they risk being held in contempt of court for failing to comply with their existing custody agreements.  Parents are supposed to follow existing shared parenting plans until there is another court order in place.

If You Have Any Questions or Concerns, Contact Our Florida Family Law Attorney

It is important to remember that, with family law, a significant amount of work can be done without having to physically file in court; for example, some courts provide online resources, a certain amount of family law work is done via negotiation and sometimes mediation, and sometimes parents can come to an agreement with each other on certain issues.

If you live in Florida and have any family law-related questions or concerns, contact West Palm Beach family lawyer William Wallshein. Our committed legal team serves clients throughout Broward and Palm Beach Counties and South Florida, and we are working through this time to make sure that we serve our community.







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