As with every other aspect of life this year, child custody faced considerable disruption from COVID-19. Whether parents had recently split, were embroiled in lengthy proceedings, and even for some of those who had settled co-parenting plans years before, the disruption of the pandemic was devastating. There is no greater fear for a parent than losing their child, and with states in quarantine and courts closed, there were few assurances that custody was secure.
Fresh Challenges For Parents
Even for people who have successfully co-parented for years, the pandemic threw a spanner in the works.
As the virus tightened its grip over the country, Americans have taken different approaches to COVID-19 safety measures. As everyone responded differently to the virus's dangers, fears over infection created a new battleground for parents. This parenting debate became all the more contentious for separated parents. Some parents feared their co-parent was failing to take appropriate measures to keep their children safe from the virus. Others feared their children could become carriers endangering even more vulnerable family members. This has led to furious conflict and a surge of parents requesting emergency redress from the courts.
Sadly this also opened the door to some obstructive parents withholding access to children under the guise of safety concerns. Back in April, the New York Times reported on a new trend for opportunistic child custody battles.
This surge in crucial family issues came at the worst time for the courts who have been on reduced operations for most of the year. There have been few official guidelines in this unprecedented panic to address these safety concerns and indeed the minefield of co-parenting in a pandemic.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's most recent order in Pennsylvania, travelers over the age of ten must provide negative coronavirus test results before entering the state or else get tested while in quarantine. For parents living out of state, this has had enormous ramifications for custody and visitation. They have also had to contend with school closures. Though not uniform across the state, many parents have had to contend with their children's schooling going remote while their own jobs did not.
There are a host of questions parents have had to discuss and work out
between them, not least house rules for kids, but also the challenge of managing childcare amidst uneven school closures and travel restrictions.
This is without even factoring in the financial hit many families have taken.
The Pennsylvania Courts
The Pennsylvania Judiciary has provided updates regarding local court proceedings, but there are some variations in local court proceedings.
They issued emergency judicial orders back in March and various administrative orders addressing the coronavirus crisis.
Courts have been variously shuttered and beset with delays but continue with emergency Protection from Abuse Orders and have been holding emergency hearings remotely over video calls.
However, when it comes to the unprecedented challenge of co-parenting in a pandemic, there is no case law or clear guidance. Parents have had to think carefully and calmly about their children's best interests and do their best to come up with cooperative and creative arrangements.
Expert Legal Advice For Custody Battles
Navigating family law issues is never easy. If the pandemic has created new problems, it can feel like the ground is falling out from under your feet. Having a skilled family law attorney on your side from the beginning of your negotiations is essential to ensuring the process is conducted civilly and with your interests at heart. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are very experienced in helping Pennsylvania families navigate child custody issues, particularly during these difficult times. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.