Coronavirus and Child Custody Arrangements

By: Bridget Campbell

As of lately, life has been anything but normal. For goodness sake, we are wiping down groceries and Amazon packages with Lysol wipes in hopes that we keep our homes as sanitary as possible! Everyone is affected by this virus, whether it be the local grocer or your church congregation. Believe it or not, the virus is even affecting divorced parents and their ability to co-parent their children, despite having a child custody order in place.

If you have a child custody order there are some new guidelines that pertain to you, so listen up! On March 31, 2020, a Memorandum was distributed by the Fifth Judicial District titled “Guidelines regarding custody/visitation during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” With Chief Justice Beasley recently closing courtrooms for non-emergent hearings, some parents are in fear that their non-compliant ex-spouse may try to unilaterally change their current custody order, or just ignore it altogether. However, pursuant to the recent guidelines, COVID-19 is not a reason to deny parenting time. 

Your current custody order remains in place and must be abided by. Call your attorney if your non-compliant ex-spouse tries to use the pandemic as an excuse to keep your child away from you during your parenting time. Your attorney will likely file a Motion for an Order to Show Cause and ask the court to have the non-compliant ex-spouse appear before the court and explain why he or she should not be held in contempt of court for not following the custody order. 

If the child is in danger of physical bodily injury or at risk for being taken out of the state of North Carolina, your attorney can file for an emergency ex parte custody order. If the judge, in his or her discretion, believes that the elements of the statute are met, their decision to grant the ex parte emergency custody order will ultimately result in the return of your child.

You may be thinking, how can my attorney file a motion if the courtrooms are closed for non-emergent hearings? Well, your attorney can still file motions with the court and those motions can still be held for a hearing via Zoom conference or some other electronic means if both parties consent. Keep in mind that the emergent matters, like an emergency ex parte custody order hearing, are considered priority and will be held in a courtroom once the court personnel set a hearing date. 

If your non-compliant ex-spouse is trying to unilaterally change your custody order or withhold visitation, you still have legal remedies. Call us today. We know that times are difficult right now and we know that intimidating ex-spouses can make difficult times even harder. 

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