New Battle for Those on Coronavirus Front Lines: Child Custody

Posted Wednesday, April 8th, 2020 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Jurisprudence, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, Of Interest to General Public, Visitation

Interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times about parents using the other parent’s occupation [one involving moderate-to-high risk of exposure to COVID-19] to justify emergency relief changing custody or denying visitation. Evidently some family courts are accepting this argument and granting relief on this basis, under their belief that they are protecting children from COVID-19 and their actions are “in the best interests of the children.”

Normally, I would be completely sympathetic to family court judges limiting visitation or changing custody based upon a parent’s high-risk behavior. Here, I find these actions ill-advised–perhaps even despicable. These parents place themselves at risk to help society function (for medical professionals, they risk their own life and health to protect the public health). Folks who are willing to do this should probably get the benefit of the doubt in weighing their desire to maintain a relationship with their children versus the risk of exposing their children to COVID-19. I certainly wouldn’t want parents deciding, as some of these parents did, to not assist in a public health crisis because they risk losing visitation or custody.

I’m not shocked that some attorneys are assisting those parents who want to use COVID-19 as a basis to deny visitation or change custody–I just wouldn’t be that attorney. I wish I could say I was shocked that family court judges are buying this argument, but the problem (one I have often noted) of vesting tremendous equitable powers in a single judge invites this sort of God-like decision making.

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