Frontline workers have been the real heroes during the pandemic. Doctors, nurses, firefighters, and others have risked their lives to save lives. But some frontline workers are being taken to court by ex-partners for potentially exposing their children to COVID-19.
In a recent New York Times article, a New Jersey physician received a court order that granted her husband temporary sole custody of their children. A judge ruled that the physician could expose the children to COVID-19 because of her job.
“Many people working in the hospitals are parents,” Dr. Mayorquin told The New York Times. “Are our children going to be taken away from us because we are on the frontlines helping people?”
Child Custody in Connecticut During the Pandemic
Here in Connecticut, there are hundreds of thousands of frontline workers — from surgeons to store workers — and many of these have child custody arrangements in place. At the start of the pandemic, the courts urged parents to stick to child custody agreements unless changed by a subsequent order. In some situations, this is impractical, but parents must meet their child’s best interests. Or at least try to. Modifying child custody arrangements without a court order could lead to serious consequences — perhaps even a contempt filing.
There are other guidelines for shared parenting arrangements during the pandemic, but none of these have become law:
- If one parent self-quarantines, parents can make telephone/video calling arrangements for communicating with children.
- Parents might have to share pickup/drop-off arrangements as schools stagger opening/closing times.
Now, with most courts in Connecticut open again, the number of parents who are changing child custody orders is on the rise. For spouses/partners of frontline workers, this could mean temporary sole custody awarded to one parent, like what happened to Dr. Mayorquin.
There’s no legislation for frontline workers and child custody arrangements in Dr. Mayorquin’s home state of New York. And there are no laws in Connecticut that prevent frontline workers from seeing their children. This ruling is just the view of one judge, and the court could overturn the temporary sole custody order.
However, many frontline workers in Connecticut are worrying about not being able to see their children. And all because of their job.
Most frontline workers are taking necessary precautions to protect loved ones in their household from the virus. This almost always includes showering when arriving home, changing into different clothes, and other safety precautions.
But this might not be enough for some ex-partners.
In another case highlighted in The New York Times, a mother in Orlando, Florida, didn’t feel comfortable sharing custody of her baby son with his father, a firefighter, and his fiancee, an ER nurse. Both the baby’s father and the father’s fiancee wore protective personal equipment at work and followed safety measures. But the mother filed an emergency motion with the court for sole custody of her son for the length of Florida’s shelter-in-place order.
There will probably be similar cases in the coming weeks and months, including here in Connecticut.
Did you know… Healthcare workers make up 20 percent of all frontline workers in the United States?
The Dangers of Sole Physical Custody
Sole physical custody means children live at one parent’s location, regardless of previous arrangements. Most of these orders are temporary, meaning the other parent can’t see (or have very limited access to) their children for a predetermined amount of time.
Although only temporary, an order for sole physical custody can have a devastating impact on the other parent. The courts usually award sole physical (and sometimes legal) custody to a parent in situations where parental instability, substance abuse, child abuse, or neglect is present. It’s very serious.
Sole physical custody can have a significant psychological impact on a frontline worker who is just doing their job. Still, some ex-partners don’t want to expose their children to the virus and could seek legal action. Did you know… Essential sales (and related occupations) make up 15 percent of all frontline workers in the U.S.?
What to Do If Your Ex-Partner is Threatening Sole Custody
If your parent is threatening to take you to court because you are a frontline worker who might expose your children to COVID-19, seek legal help immediately. Hiring a qualified, reputable divorce attorney in Connecticut who specializes in child custody issues during the pandemic provides you with peace of mind.
A good attorney provides you with the legal representation you need when defending a temporary sole custody filing. You must act quickly so you can gather evidence to present to the court. Sometimes, your attorney can negotiate with your ex-partner so the case doesn’t even go to court.
When you hire a child custody attorney in Connecticut, you can achieve:
- Negotiate parenting plans during the pandemic.
- Defend a modification of custody filed in the court.
- Counter-file for non-compliance with an existing custody agreement.
- Maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-partner for the sake of your children.
Here at Rochlin Law, we have years of family law experience. Even in these unprecedented times, we help parents handle the legal issues associated with child custody, shared parenting, and visitation rights. It’s what we’ve always done.
No two child custody agreements are the same. So we customize our services based on your requirements. We find the best solutions for you and protect the rights of your children.
It’s true: Some frontline workers are being taken to court by ex-partners for potentially exposing their children to COVID-19. According to The New York Times, this has already happened in New York and Orlando, Florida, so perhaps Connecticut is next.
If need legal representation because of a problem with child custody in Connecticut, call (860) 357-915 or click here to learn more.