Visitation and custody during the pandemic is complex and uncharted territory. At Held Law Firm, we are flooded with calls from clients worried about their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number one question we hear relates to whether Governor Lee’s Executive Order allows certain activities for children. The second concern is that the other parent is not taking coronavirus seriously enough, or disregarding an established parenting plan. So what does existing law tell parents about how to protect their children during this unprecedented global event?
YOU HAVE A FEW OPTIONS
Governor Lee’s Executive Order commands all Tennessee residents to stay at home unless you are carrying out essential activities. Basically, you should have your children only around the people you live with. If your ex is not taking COVID-19 seriously, you have a few options:
Option 1: Talk to the other parent and try to agree on the rules. Maybe take it one issue at a time: agree to suspend those visits to grandma or cancel that birthday party.
Option 2: If your ex won’t listen, withhold your children. We don’t recommend this. Your court order is still in effect, and you risk going to jail if you don’t obey it. At the very least, you’ll have to pay an attorney to defend you.
Option 3: Most of our clients are filing an Emergency Motion to Suspend Visitation. To successfully win a motion to suspend the other parent’s visitation, and protect yourself from jail and attorney’s fees, you will need documented proof of obvious and repeated violations by the other parent of Governor Lee’s stay-at-home orders, or specific threats to your child’s safety.
These are fact-specific courses of action, and the best advice I can give you is to not make them until you have talked over your situation with your attorney. Visitation and custody during the pandemic is murky due to the unprecedented crisis we face. If you need legal advice about your family’s response to Coronavirus, we are a phone call away.
Margaret Held is the Founding Attorney of Held Law Firm.