Divorce, Custody Agreements, and Social Distancing Provisions

Posted by Joseph Lento | Jul 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

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 LLF Law Firm online or call (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your options.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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