Will a Spike in COVID Cases This Winter Affect my Custody and Visitation Rights?

While the state of Maryland is in better shape than many other locations and hot spots across the Nation, statewide COVID-19 cases continue to spike at a rapid rate. Rumors have been circulating that another stay-at-home order, or “lockdown,” is imminent. As Maryland’s positivity rate continues to hit record highs, Governor Larry Hogan has suspended plans for the State’s re-opening, and has instead instituted more restrictive phases of the reopening process. The uncertainty surrounding the virus can be incredibly stressful and worrisome for everyone, but it is particularly stressful for those who must also adhere custody orders.

How can you maintain your “bubble” and mitigate risk of infection when your child divides time between two households? The safety and health of your family takes top priority, but does this mean you will lose your scheduled time? Does this mean you will face legal consequences if you do not comply with your court order due to COVID-19 related concerns?

While state laws vary, Maryland has taken the position that custody orders should continue to be followed throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. Under the most recent stay-at-home order, transportation to facilitate court-ordered visitation was considered essential travel and therefore permitted. For this reason, most custody orders will not be affected despite the growing threat of the pandemic. While some custody and visitation orders may already have a contingency plan in place, most existing agreements do not contemplate an unprecedented pandemic, such as COVID-19.

What if someone in your home, or in the home of your co-parent, is high risk for COVID-19? A parent who is immunocompromised may have heightened concerns about their child traveling between two households for fear of increased exposure. While this is a very valid concern, it does not permit a party to unilaterally violate a court-ordered custody schedule. If you have concerns about this, it is important that you contact a lawyer right away to discuss options. Sharing custody can be stressful even during the best of times. The added fear and stressors surrounding COVID-19 may cause disagreements between co-parents to escalate in nature and frequency. Since many Americans are conflicted on how best to balance maintaining some semblance of normalcy while taking appropriate precautionary measures to mitigate risk of contracting COVID-19, it is not surprising that many co-parents face similar disagreements. While involving lawyers may seem like an escalation, this can actually facilitate civil discussion. Due to COVID-19 related court closures, there is a backlog of cases which means it is unlikely that your matter will be heard for several months. For this reason, negotiations are more likely to provide immediate relief.

Speaking to a knowledgeable family law attorney will empower you with the information needed to make the best decision for you and your family. Understanding that finances are especially tight right now for many families, the Ruben Law Firm’s knowledgeable, local family law attorneys are offering complimentary initial consultations for up to 30 minutes. This can be particularly helpful for people who feel overwhelmed and do not know where to begin when it comes to custody issues. It is best to seek guidance as soon as a potential issue arises. Speaking with an attorney may give you peace of mind and prevent you from being blindsided by the steps another party may take.

Another stressor related to COVID-19 is having to pay child support if you have been laid-off from work. Since March 2020, unemployment rates have increased dramatically. In May 2020, Maryland’s unemployment rate reached 10%. What should you do if you lose your job? How will you afford child support without a steady income? If you experience job loss, or receive a significant decrease in income, you should immediately file for a modification of child support. This is important because child support is only retroactive to the date of your request. A successful child support modification will help to relieve some of your financial strains.

At Ruben Law Firm, our attorneys have been handling unique and challenging legal matters for decades. Our lawyers have built reputations by resolving conflicts in a way that satisfies both sides. Our attorneys are dedicated to giving each client the individualized attention each case deserves. Our attorneys listen carefully to each client’s concerns and goals in order to achieve the best possible outcome. Our firm understands how emotionally taxing custody matter are and makes certain each client is met with compassion and feels comfortable sharing their story without fear of judgment.

Call the Ruben Law Firm today at 410-766-4044, to schedule a free consultation. At Ruben Law Firm they offer flexible meeting times, have several locations across the state, and can provide payment plans if finances are an issue at the moment. Don’t wait, get legal advice today so that you are prepared no matter what 2020 throws at you.

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