Many families are facing uncertain times right now. One of the biggest concerns for parents is whether they are going to get to see their children due to social distancing and travel restrictions. How can parents that are divorced or have prior custody orders work together to ensure their children are properly taken care of and at the same time retaining some semblance of normalcy?
The South Carolina Supreme Court issued an Order closing all courts including family courts except for emergency issues until at least May 1, 2020. Emergency issues may consist of orders of protection due to domestic abuse or if the life and safety of a child is in imminent danger.
Custody and Visitation during Covid-19 (Coronavirus)
If you are in the middle of litigation with a Temporary Order or have a Final Order in place, it must still be followed or you could risk being held in contempt of court. You may ask, “What about the safety of my child and continuing to allow visitation?”
In South Carolina, the standard which all family courts use regarding children is to determine what is in the best interests of the child. During these trying times it could only help your children to co-parent and communicate with the other parent to work as a cohesive unit for your child. I tell my clients that if you are able to communicate with the other parent you can both agree to do what is best for the child, which does not necessarily mean following every little detail of the Court Order. If there is a verbal agreement to do something different from the Order, put in it an email or text message so everyone is on the same page. If you are unable to communicate effectively with the other parent, then it is always best practice to follow whatever Order is in place.
South Carolina Family Courts have not provided any direction on how custody or visitation should be handled during the Coronavirus. Other States have issued statements on custody and visitation during the Covid-19 State of Disaster. Texas issued “Second Emergency Order Regarding The COVID-19 State of Disaster.” The order made it clear that in cases where school schedules determine custody and visitation, the school schedule as originally published will remain the guideline. School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic won’t change child custody and visitation. In Illinois, the following Executive Order in Response to COVID-19 (No. 8) ordered people to stay home except for “essential activities.” “Essential travel” is defined as travel required by a court order under a custody agreement. The Michigan Supreme Court stated, “that all child custody and parenting time orders remain in force. “Only a new court order can change that. Parents should continue to follow their court order.”
At all times remember to do what is in the best interest of your child.
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