Can Parents Refuse Visitation Based on COVID-19?
The coronavirus has thrown a wrench into all of our summer plans, and the CDC warns us that social distancing will be with us until a vaccine is found. Meanwhile, Florida is experiencing a record surge in cases.
This has created problems for several divorced parents who are attempting to navigate the post-COVID normal. Can COVID-19 become the basis for refusing to allow visitation?
To understand this, you have to analyze the issue on a case-by-case basis.
Visitation Refusal and COVID-19 in Florida
Generally speaking, unless the two parents live far apart, visitation orders are strictly enforced, as always. Yet some parents have raised the issue that the Governor’s COVID-19 order trumps the court-ordered visitation schedule.
Not really. Since the quarantine order and the visitation schedule order are not mutually exclusive, there would be no reason for the court to countermand its own order unless it placed the child, mother, or someone else in imminent danger.
In other words, unless the parent has a very good reason for refusing the visitation order, the courts are, generally, unlikely to accept COVID-19 as an excuse for depriving the children of their time spent with their other parent.
Visitation Refusal Amid Accusations of Failure to Follow Safe Practices
A completely separate issue is whether or not a parent can raise the point that the other parent involved in the situation is somehow not taking the pandemic seriously. If, for example, the parent has openly said that they refuse to wear masks in public and have continued to go out with friends, that can be used as a reason to deny visitation.
A more difficult problem to sort out would be work-related danger. If, for example, a parent works in a meat-processing factory where several other employees have come down with the virus, the other parent can raise the issue that this parent is at increased risk and, although this is not their fault, it still represents a threat to the children.
The judge, in this situation, would have to determine how much of a danger that parent is to the children and how likely it is that they could spread COVID-19 because of their job. Even though the parent is simply doing their job and ensuring the economic future of their family, the credible risk of spreading the disease can be used as a reason to place a pause on the visitation schedule.
My Spouse is Denying Visitation Based on COVID-19
If you are being denied visitation based on COVID-19, you should proceed to discuss the matter with your lawyer. If the other parent has made the unilateral decision to stop visitation amid the pandemic, the court will insist they have a specific reason that goes beyond merely the threat imposed by the virus.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney
If you are experiencing custody problems amid the pandemic, call the West Palm Beach divorce attorneys at Bruce S. Rosenwater & Associates today to learn more about how we can help.