The last two and a half months have been a stressful time period for all of us. As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the country, we've all had to readjust our day-to-day living by practicing social distancing, staying at home as much as possible, and wearing masks when we are out and about. But some families have had to deal with an added stress—battles over child custody—at a time when Florida courthouses have been closed to in-person appearances.
There have been several Florida stories regarding child custody battles that caught the media's attention and went national. They involve parents, either divorced or no longer together, who have argued that their custody agreements must be temporarily suspended because the other parent works in a medical field or is a first-responder and, as such, presents a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
In the first story from here in Orlando, a mother asked a judge to temporarily suspend sharing custody of her two-year-old son with his father because the father and his fiancee are first-responders. The boy's father is a firefighter and his fiancee is an emergency room nurse. The boy's mother does not fault the father and his fiancee for the nature of their work, but she is worried that they might be exposed to coronavirus and then spread it to her son and ultimately her.
More often than not these days, unmarried couples in Florida can find themselves battling it out over how to share custody of the children they had together. While it's not clear from the above story if the mother and father of the boy were ever married, Florida gives mothers preferential status until paternity is established.
The next story comes from Deerfield Beach, Florida. A dermatologist and his ex-wife are arguing custody rights after the mother decided to stop sharing custody of their son after she saw pictures on the doctor's social media showing the son sitting in his father's office. She is arguing that the father put their son at risk by exposing him to a place where “anybody” with coronavirus could be.
The parents had a custody agreement that was signed by the courts in 2017, but the dermatologist is arguing the mother is using COVID-19 as an excuse to withhold their son from him. His office has been deemed an essential business, and he is only seeing patients with emergency skin issues. He says he has taken all necessary precautions to protect himself and their son from any exposure to coronavirus.
Ideally, it is never a good idea to alter or change your child custody plan without going through the proper court procedures. But we are living in unprecedented times, and there have been unseen repercussions that are now having to be dealt with.
If your former spouse or partner decided to upend your custody agreement during the coronavirus pandemic, you need an attorney who can examine all the facts of the case and help you determine a path forward. Veliz Katz Law is here to assist you. We offer free and confidential consultations to determine if we are the best fit for you and your legal issue. Contact us so we can get started assisting you with your child custody needs.