COVID-19 and Child Custody in Pennsylvania

It has been nearly a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a world pandemic due to its spread throughout the world and the severity of the illness for some of the infected individuals. While the COVID-19 outbreak has affected every aspect of American life, it has brought new challenges for parents whose children are governed by a custody order.

A family living in an intact unit or single household face the challenges of creating effective social distancing plans, cleaning routines, and rules about masking. While this is difficult, coordinating between two households may seem impossible. However, with common sense, cooperation, and the guidance of health care providers, we can keep our children safe and connected with all members of their families.

Temporary Change to Custody During COVID

The social distancing and shelter-in-place (SIP) rules issued by the Commonwealth’s governor do not affect custody orders.  Therefore, you should continue following your current custody arrangement unless you and your ex agree to an alternative plan or a judge changes your order.

Courts are making it clear that denying visitation during this time will not be tolerated and may result in contempt of court and sanctions. But some parents might have valid concerns which could justify a temporary change to custody, such as:

  • Your ex has been exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19;
  • Your ex is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Your child is high-risk for COVID-19 and/or complications from COVID-19.

Emergency Temporary Child Custody Order

If your child’s health or someone in your household is truly at risk, you may want to ask a judge to intervene. You or your attorney may be able to obtain an emergency temporary child custody order from your local family court.  Custody disputes in the time of the pandemic are new territory for the court and parents.  Further, requesting a limitation or change in custody should be sought after consultation with your physician.

For questions regarding custody and particularly custody during the pandemic, please contact our Family Law Attorneys at Pyfer, Reese, Straub, Gray, and Farhat, LLC.  We look forward to working with you.