Will the court “fast track” my case if the other parent is not obeying social distancing with my child?
One of the biggest concerns many parents have right now is if their children are being exposed to COVID-19 due to their co-parent refusing to follow social distancing protocols. If you are in the middle of a custody battle, you may want the court to issue orders right away, especially if you learn that your co-parent is not following social distancing orders. However, depending on the situation, that may not be what happens.
The world, and specifically the United States, has not seen a pandemic like the one we are currently living through since the Spanish Flu nearly a hundred years ago. Naturally, there is little if any, case law that would give guidance regarding some of the situations the pandemic is creating in terms of exercising parenting time.
Currently, the courts in most states are overwhelmed by the number of cases, becoming backlogged due to rescheduling. Most courts are giving preference for criminal trials due to “speedy hearing” requirements. If you have already begun your custody case, you are in a better spot than many in terms of being able to obtain orders sooner rather than later. However, soon, is a relative term, and a hearing two months from now while that could be seen as "soon" in the legal world, may seem like an eternity to you.
First and foremost, you will want to try to reach an agreement with your co-parent regarding any issues you may have regarding the following of social distancing orders. If you know your co-parent is breaking social distancing orders, you may want to consider how you are aware of that information. If you came to know that information through your children, know that what your children say to you about what your co-parent did, will likely be considered “hearsay” in the eyes of the law and will be excluded from evidence.
The court will not necessarily “fast track” your case because you believe that your co-parent is endangering your child by not following social distancing orders. The court may only enter a blanket order that everyone follow the social distancing orders while exerting parenting time. The court may also issue orders that you and your co-parent work together to resolve the issue. However, if there is an underlying condition that one or more of your children have that puts them in the “at-risk” category, the court may make that a priority to address the concerns regarding the co-parent not following social distancing orders.
If you have questions about parenting time, child custody, or another family law matter during COVID-19, The Harris Law Firm is working remotely and available to help.