District of Columbia along with majority of the States has a significant stay home order in place that limits all outdoor activities except those as defined as Essential Activities:

  1. Engaging in an activity or performing a task essential to an individual’s own health or safety, or to the health or safety of the individual’s family or household members, including pets.    Examples: Obtaining medical supplies or medication; visiting a health care professional; or obtaining supplies needed to work from home.
  2. Obtaining services or supplies for an individual’s own self or the individual’s family or household members; or delivering those services or supplies to others that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and operation of residences.
  3. Performing work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business or otherwise carrying out activities specifically permitted in this Order, including Minimum Basic Operations.
  4. Caring for a family member or pet in another household or serving as a caregiver providing essential services to another. Caregiving involves more than companionship or entertainment, but rather helps a person with activities of daily living, the supervision of children, or otherwise tends to the immediate physical needs and safety of someone who cannot attend to those needs for him or herself.

Parents with joint custody arrangement need to navigate the difficulties associated with complying with the child custody orders and visitation while complying with restriction in place due to the widespread pandemic.  Arguably adhering and complying with a child custody visitation order falls under one of the exceptions enumerated however there are caveats as outlined below.

As the paramount consideration in child custody determination is the best interest of the child, in these times and circumstances, it is incumbent upon the parents to conduct a risk evaluation and analysis and if their custody agreements or orders allow for flexibility then be amenable to modification of their usual schedule to accommodate safety and physical health of the children as well as the adults accompanying them.

Household that have disproportionate number of elderly or those who are immuno-compromised could be at risk with children that have weekly exchanges among parents.

Those parents who are first responders or come in direct contact with COVID-19 patients may opt out of their weekly visits and defer to the other parent for time being.

In cases where either the child custody agreements and order does not provide for flexibility in schedule to navigate this pandemic or that parents have genuine and articulable concern for the safety and wellbeing of the child – then an emergency hearing and order of modification maybe warranted.

Please review legal standard for filing for an emergency hearing outlined: EMERGENCY HEARINGS IN FAMILY CASES: DC FAMILY LAWYER

Refer to our Washington DC Child Custody page for more detailed analysis on the applicable laws.

Here is also another helpful article from New York Times:

New Battle for Those on Coronavirus Front Lines –Child Custody

Categories: Family Law.