The legal effects of COVID
The COVID outbreak has caused uncertainty and raised questions for everyone across the world.
Our everyday lives and the routines with which we have become familiar have been altered.
For some, COVID’s effects may have caused changes to daily routines or schedules that they have followed for years.
One of the areas that has raised increased uncertainty and questions is how the laws should be followed as well as how they are being enforced.
As family lawyers in Charlotte, we too have had to adjust our routines and monitor the court’s decisions and updates on a daily basis.
North Carolina’s Child Custody Laws During COVID
North Carolina’s Family Court Advisory Commission has recently published a press release with details on their child custody and visitation recommendations during COVID.
The press release states it was created “provide guidance to families with existing Chapter 50 custody and/or visitation orders during the COVID-19 pandemic” and states the goal “is to encourage the parties to follow their parenting plan and/or custody order as closely as possible to ensure a level of consistency and stability that is in the best interest of the child(ren).”
The Stay at Home Order announced by Governor Cooper prohibits nonessential travel, however, it does state that individuals are allowed to travel between their residence(s) for reasons such as “child custody or visitation arrangements”.
In short, the Family Court Advisory Commission recommends that people should continue to follow the parenting plan or child custody order they have in place.
The CDC’s recommended precautions are still enforced during this time, so it is vital all parties continue to practice things like social distancing, wearing face masks, and thoroughly washing their hands.
Here are some of the key subjects discussed in the Family Court Advisory Commission’s statement:
The COVID outbreak is NOT to be used to deny either party of parenting or visitation time. Parents should continue to follow their agreed-upon or court-ordered parenting plan or visitation time. This does come with the understanding that all parties will follow local and state orders regarding following the proper health measures for both themselves and their child(ren).
If visitations or parenting time requires supervision, and the appointed supervisor is unavailable during COVID for any reason, the FCAC states that “parenting time should be conducted virtually via video conferencing”.
If parenting time is required to take place at a public location, you must continue your parenting time in a state or locally-permitted location. While there are many public areas open to public use, areas like playgrounds may be restricted due to the risk of spread.
School closures caused by health concerns are not grounds for extended or additional vacations or visitation time.
If either party has contracted or come into contact with someone who has contracted or displayed systems related to COVID, they must notify the other party by phone, email, or videoconferencing (unless a court order prohibits communication between the parties). During this time all parties should work together and focus on the health and safety of their children.
The state also recommends individuals keep their child custody attorney up-to-date, and we, your attorneys, are recommended to encourage all parties to focus on working together to keep your child(ren) safe.