Child Custody Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed daily life for many individuals across the United States. As schools, workplaces, and organizations transition to work-from-home or online settings, many people may be facing challenges from a change in environment. Similarly, many individuals want to limit public interaction to help maintain safety during COVID-19. In addition to creating personal change, some Coronavirus safety measures could impact child custody agreements in Georgia and across the country.

How Does COVID-19 Affect Child Custody?

Many of the proactive safety measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 could present challenges for child custody agreements. Many child custody agreements specify end of a school day pick up or an extracurricular activity changes based on a child’s school schedule. Due to those agreements, many parents are asking how a custody agreement changes if the child’s school is moved online or canceled due to COVID-19. Similarly, many parents express concern that their ex-spouse may not be adhering to COVID-19 best practices, as outlined by health and safety experts. This could include violations of quarantine, stay-at-home orders, or safety guidelines  

Many county superior courts across Georgia have specified that child custody agreements must still be followed as though in-person schools were still in session. This means that parents must follow child custody agreements unless a modification or temporary agreement has been reached. If a parent does not adhere to the agreement, they could be charged with contempt of court.

Changing Child Custody Agreements During COVID-19

While child custody agreements must be followed during the Coronavirus pandemic, there are several options available to parents who wish to adjust their parenting agreement. This includes reaching a temporary agreement or creating an emergency parenting plan.

“When seeking to change a child custody agreement or parenting plan, it’s best to consider what is in the best interest of the child,” said attorney Sara Khaki of Atlanta Divorce Law Group. “In many cases, expressing concerns with your ex-spouse and attempting to agree may be the best option. It’s important to document any communication or changes in agreements.”

Additionally, co-parents may also create emergency parenting plans, which could dictate how child custody changes during emergencies. Emergency parenting plans often address how shared custody may change, where the child will live, and how childcare costs may be divided. When considering adjustments to a parenting plan or visitation schedule during COVID-19, many parents consider whether one home is better equipped to serve the child’s needs. This could include homeschooling resources, limited interaction with the public, or access to private outdoor areas.

Co-Parenting Best Practices

There are many best practices that family experts recommend creating a healthy and productive co-parenting environment. This includes keeping open communication. Whether through email, call, or text, it may be important to answer and reply to a co-parent within a reasonable timeframe. Similarly, entering communication with the best interest of the child in mind could help avoid conflict. Additionally, some experts recommend scheduling virtual visits between a co-parent and a child to help an ex-spouse feel included in a child’s life during the COVID-19 pandemic.