Does a Shelter-in-Place Order Limit my Right to Parenting Time?
“Does a shelter in place order limit my right to parenting time?”
I practice law in the state of Virginia and Washington D.C. Unless you live there, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of your state, but I can give you some general observations on family law issues and how they are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the jurisdiction where I practice.
In response to COVID-19, multiple states have issued shelter in place or stay at home orders. Navigating what these orders mean as they pertain to your custodial rights with your children may be difficult. Navigating your rights with the other parent may be even more difficult.
While many states have enacted shelter in place orders, or stay at home orders, they all are similar. Residents are required to stay indoors except to perform certain necessary activities. These activities include buying food, seeking medical treatment, banking, and laundromat services. This also includes any travel necessary to enforce a court order and for purposes of caring for a child or family member.
So, this means that the shelter in place orders, or stay at home orders, do not impact your right to parenting time, whether or not there is actually a custody and visitation order. However, that does not mean the other parent will not misconstrue, or try to abuse these orders in an attempt to block your access to your child.
In the situation where the other parent is misusing the shelter in place order to block your access to your child, it may be tempting to try and involve law enforcement. It is important to understand that even if you have a court order, the police are very unlikely to physically remove a child from the other parent’s home. With the limited access to the courts, you may be left with few resources to compel the other parent to let you see your child.
If the other parent is blocking your access to your child, communication is necessary. You will want to communicate via text or email, as it may be necessary to show a judge that the other parent was blocking your access to your child. It also will be important to not give up on trying to see your child, as it is uncertain when these stay at home orders will end.
If you feel that your child’s health or safety is in danger, it may be necessary to file an Emergency Motion with the court. These motions allow you quick access to the courts, so that a judge can make a decision on the offending parent’s actions. Even though the courts are limiting access, they generally are open for emergency filings.
The most important thing that you can do is not give up on seeing your child. While your resources may be limited, there still are options available if you do not wait to act.
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