There is no question that everyone has been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another. Whether you are directed to work from home, are practicing social-distancing, or have been infected with the virus or know someone who has, this is uncharted territory.
With people social-distancing to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, parties who have a custody order in place may be unsure of how their parenting time schedules are affected by COVID-19. With schools and certain businesses closed indefinitely and day-to-day life becoming abnormal, parents may be wondering whether they are required to continue their court-ordered custody arrangement.
Dangers of Not Complying with Your Court-Ordered Parenting Time
It is understandable that parents are concerned about COVID-19 and are doing everything in their power to minimize their children’s exposure to others to keep them safe. However, parents must understand that the other parent still has a right to see their children as well. If neither parent has been exposed to COVID-19 and both are taking the recommended precautions, parenting time should continue as normal.
If one parent refuses to comply with their court-ordered parenting schedule, there may be legal repercussions. There is a risk that the other parent may file a motion to enforce and the withholding parent could be held in contempt of court and sanctioned accordingly.
Modifying An Existing Custody Order
If a parties’ custody arrangement needs modification, their best option is to work something out between themselves. However, if that isn’t possible, there are alternatives, one of which is mediation. In order to minimize family conflict and to help parents resolve their issues without court involvement, the North Dakota Supreme Court has developed the Expedited Parenting Time Mediation Program. This program offers two free hours of telephonic mediation to parents facing parenting time disputes. The program is limited to North Dakota cases in which a parenting time plan has been established or an interim order regarding custody has been entered. The meditation process is designed to be completed within seven business days.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the case may need to go through the courts. However, this may take longer than normal due to COVID-19. In response to COVID-19, the North Dakota Supreme Court issued an order declaring a state of emergency for the Judicial Branch. Pursuant to Order 25, while civil hearings and trials are not automatically suspended, judges are given discretion until June 1, 2020, to postpone such hearings. Requests for continuances and extensions related to COVID-19 are presumptively granted and telephonic hearings are becoming commonplace.
If you or a loved one are looking for guidance on how to modify a custody arrangement during this unprecedented time, it may be in your best interest to have an experienced family law attorney by your side.
Please contact the Family Law Division at SW&L at 701-297-2890 or email us via the contact form below.
The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only. Do not rely on the information on this website as legal advice.