COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a respiratory disease that poses an extreme risk to older adults and people with pre-existing health conditions. To slow the transmission of the virus, Virginia officials have declared a State of Emergency—closing many businesses and restricting non-essential activities.
While dealing with the unprecedented outbreak is difficult for every family, COVID-19 presents unique challenges for parents who have shared custody of their children. In this article, our experienced Manassas child custody attorneys offer six tips to help parents get through the coronavirus outbreak.
- Safety First: Follow Social Distancing Protocols
First and foremost, it is imperative that both parents follow all applicable health and safety recommendations. The Virginia Department of Health is strongly urging all residents to practice social distancing during the outbreak. Social distancing is one of the best methods to slow the spread of the virus—both on an individual level and on a community level. Although children are less susceptible to COVID-19, there is still risk.
- Center the Needs of Your Children
The coronavirus is putting strain on young children and their families. During these trying times, it is important to center the needs of children. Social distancing can be hard for children, especially for young children who may not fully understand what is happening. Remember, if there is a legal dispute between parents, Virginia uses the best interests of the child standard (Va. Code § 20-124.2).
- Ongoing Communication is Crucial
In an ideal world, separated parents will already have a workable co-parenting plan in place to help them solve problems. Of course, even the best of plans cannot anticipate every issue. If you do not feel prepared for the coronavirus, you are certainly not alone. Consistent, positive communication is more important than ever. Co-parents need to keep each other informed and try to give as much advance notice as possible of any schedule changes.
- Additional Flexibility May Be Necessary
During the pandemic, parents should try to give each other some additional leeway. COVID-19 has disrupted almost everyone’s schedule. As an example, Virginia’s public school closures have created some serious child care issues for parents throughout the Commonwealth. An extra level of flexibility can help separated families get through this difficult time.
- Document Any Custody or Visitation Violations
As important as it is to try to give your co-parent some extra space, you should also protect your own legal rights. If your former partner is violating your custody or visitation rights, make sure you carefully document exactly what is happening. Calmly let them know what they are doing and why it is wrong. If they refuse to comply, you may need to escalate the matter.
- Be Ready to Seek Professional Guidance
Although COVID-19 has interrupted many family law proceedings, Virginia’s courts are still open. You still have legal options available. If you need custody or visitation help, we strongly encourage you to call our law office for a confidential, fully remote initial consultation. Our Northern Virginia custody attorneys will review your case, explain your options, and help you determine the best approach to protect your rights and your family.
Call Our Northern Virginia Child Custody Lawyers for Immediate Assistance
At Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C., our child custody attorneys are compassionate, dedicated advocates for our clients. If you have questions about COVID-19 and child custody or child visitation, our legal team is here to offer guidance and support. We encourage you to tell us your story during a strictly confidential consultation. With offices in Manassas and Fairfax, we represent parents throughout Northern Virginia, including in Gainesville, Bristow, Centreville, Annandale, and Chantilly.