Like many other people, you may have been in the middle of a custody proceeding when the coronavirus began sweeping through the United States. Everyday life certainly looks much different now than it did just three weeks ago. If you were scheduled to appear in a Pennsylvania court for a custody issue regarding your children and your ex-partner, you probably have questions.
What Happens to My Scheduled Court Date?
With a stay-at-home order issued by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and today's announcement by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that courts will remain closed in Pennsylvania until April 30th, routine cases such as divorces, custody hearings, and child support matters are being temporarily suspended, only to be rescheduled at a later date. You should keep in touch with your Pennsylvania family law attorney to find out when your court date will be rescheduled. Unfortunately, this whole situation is fluid and no one can predict exactly when courts will be safe to reopen.
Judges will oversee cases where the immediate health and safety of an individual are at hand, including protection-from-abuse and emergent custody petitions, but these will be done either over the telephone or video teleconference.
Do I Still Have to Transport My Child to My Ex's House?
If you have a shared custody arrangement that calls for your children to go back and forth between the parental homes, yes. The stay-at-home order excludes transporting children in a shared custody agreement, and keeping your children with you rather than taking them to their other parent's home could be seen as a violation of your agreement.
My Ex-Wife Is a Doctor in a Hospital Treating COVID-19 Patients: I Don't Want My Children Exposed to Her Right Now. Can I Suspend Their Visits?
In this (and similar) situations, the best thing to do would be to have an honest and frank discussion with your ex-partner. If he or she works in the medical field or has an immuno-compromised family member living with them, you might want to talk about an acceptable adjustment to the shared custody agreement during this time. Yes, we are in unprecedented times right now, but if you willfully violate the shared custody agreement without getting your ex's approval, a judge may rescind your rights or custody completely.
If you both decide that the children will stay put at one parent's home during the lockdown, you can still keep in touch with them. The good news is that during this pandemic, technology makes it very simple to communicate via FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype.
I Was Laid Off Because of the Lockdown. Will This Affect My Custody?
One of the most stressful things about the lockdowns is that people are losing their jobs. If your income has changed and you are no longer able to support your children, then a custody modification may need to happen. Or if you are no longer able to provide the previously agreed-upon child support, you can petition the court for a modification. Again, the key is to communicate with your ex about what has happened.
Pennsylvania Custody Attorney
These are stressful times, which can just exacerbate an already-contentious custody dispute. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and compassion you need to navigate these unchartered legal waters. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm today online or by phone at 888-535-3686.