COVID-19 and all its accompanying precautions have wreaked havoc on all of our lives, but for some co-parents, it could even mean restrictions placed on them by their exes. Is that even legal? Let's dive in.
Social Distancing Contracts
Buzzfeed recently reported on a Brooklyn mother whose ex-husband asked a court to require her to obey all New York state social distancing rules, “not attend any nonessential gatherings, and not have any visitors while their children are with her.”
The mother commented that she felt she was living in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, in which women and their rights are subjugated in a patriarchal society. She expressed concern to Buzzfeed that her allegedly emotionally abusive husband was simply using COVID-19 pandemic precautions to attempt to control her and her activities under the guise of concern for the health and welfare of their children.
Upon investigation of this woman's claims, Buzzfeed uncovered that the concept of “social distancing contracts” between divorced couples is far from uncommon in the current family law landscape; one lawyer quoted in the article says he has heard of “hundreds” of such agreements, which may limit parents from hiring child care or cleaning services or even date someone new.
Pandemic Parenting Plans
While some co-parents may be abusing the idea of social distancing contracts solely to stir up fights with their ex, adjusted custody agreements, or pandemic parenting plans during this unprecedented time may be advisable in specific situations.
If one or both parents are essential workers, for example, that could be a valid reason for a co-parent to request a change in custody provisions. Some adjustments may include changing custody schedules to decrease potential exposure – perhaps week to week to cut down on the shuffling between homes.
That said, courts are not likely to look kindly on parents attempting to use the pandemic as an excuse to keep the other parent from seeing their children. Ohio’s stay-at-home order issued in March explicitly still permitted “[t]ravel required by law enforcement or court order, including to transport children pursuant to a custody order.”
If you are facing or considering a potential change in custody because of pandemic precautions, contact the Lento Law Firm online or call (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your options.