While COVID-19 continues to run like wildfire across the US, Ohio has extended its stay-at-home-order.
For many, the protocol is simple. Just stay at home. However, for those that have shared custody over a child, things might not be so clear.
Co-parenting isn’t easy at the best of times. Mounting tensions around the coronavirus and a lack of information could be making your shared parenting arrangement more difficult to manage than usual. If you and your ex don’t know the answer to the question, ‘how the coronavirus affects custody agreements in Ohio’ you may be in for some disagreements
However, the stay-at-home order and Ohio law have some clear stipulations around custody arrangements during the pandemic. Read on to find out what they are and get clear on your rights as a parent during the coronavirus lockdown in Ohio.
Are Custody Agreements Still Valid During the COVID-19 Stay-At-Home Order?
If you are wondering if your custody agreement is still valid during the coronavirus stay-at-home order, the short answer is yes.
What’s more, the Ohio Director’s Stay At Home Order explicitly states in section 14(e) on essential travel that travel which is required to transport children in accordance with a custody agreement is permitted.
This means that you are allowed to leave home to transport your child to its co-parent, and vice versa. In short, your custody agreement is still valid and enforceable for the duration of the stay-at-home order.
In spite of this, issues have arisen in Ohio state between co-parents where one parent is an essential worker. In some circumstances, co-parents are attempting to stop visitation and digress from custody arrangements.
In certain cases, this may be understandable. However, in other instances, co-parents might be taking advantage of the unprecedented situation to gain what is in essence full custody.
To guard against this, judges on the Franklin County bench have decreed that this is not lawful, and that court orders for shared parenting are to be enforced. This also applies to health care workers and other essential service workers who have dual custody agreements.
However, there may be exceptions to this if a parent has developed COVID-19 symptoms, or has come into contact with someone who has shown COVID-19 symptoms.
What Happens If a Parent Disregards the Stay-At-Home Order
Essential workers and health care employees are required to leave home to carry out their work. Judges wish to prevent co-parents that are essential workers from being punished for their sacrifices by not being able to see their children.
However, what if a co-parent is willfully disregarding the stay-at-home order, is coming in unnecessary contact with others, and not practicing social distancing? If this is the case, you as the other parent have a right to be concerned.
If you are worried about the safety of your child, the first thing you need to do is try to come to a mutual agreement with the other co-parent. You should try to establish come common safety measures that both of you take so that there is consistency for your child and adequate protection. You may want to discuss things like sterilization or dealing with deliveries and house calls.
If both of you can work together to ensure the safety of your child or children, you may be also able to agree on a modified custody arrangement. Most custody plans have provisions for modified custody arrangements. However, it is a good idea to review your custody plan and double-check whether it allows for modifications.
Of course, in some cases, mutual co-operation might not be possible. If the other co-parent is willfully disregarding Ohio’s stay-at-home order, you do have the option to report them to authorities. However, the law is unclear as to what impact disregard of social distancing has on shared custody agreements.
In certain instances, you might want to seek legal help to ascertain what you can do to keep your child safe if the other co-parent is blatantly disobeying the stay-at-home order. This is particularly true if your child is at high risk of contracting coronavirus
What to Do If Your Child Is at High-Risk of Contracting Coronavirus
Health care authorities have established that most children are not at high risk from coronavirus. However, children who have weakened immune systems, respiratory problems (such as asthma), immune diseases, or Down Syndrome are at heightened risk.
If your child falls into a high-risk category, then you and your co-parent need to take extra precautions to protect them from the virus. Hopefully, the other co-parent will be as concerned as you and the two of you can work together to establish enhanced safety measures for your child.
However, in the event that the other co-parent does not want to co-operate, and does not see the situation as seriously as you, you should seek the assistance of a health care provider. They should be able to establish for you whether or not your child is at high risk from the virus. They should also be able to state this in writing.
Once you have written verification from a health care professional that you child is in fact at high risk from COVID-19, you can use this to assist you legally.
You May Need Legal Help
In the best-case scenario, co-parents will be able to work together to establish their own safety protocols during the stay-at-home order, and during the pandemic as a whole. If they find it necessary parents may wish to modify custody agreements to accommodate any new arrangements.
However, if co-operation is not possible, you may need to seek legal help, especially if your child is at high risk from the coronavirus.
If you are in need of legal assistance surrounding your child’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic in Columbus, Ohio, please reach out. View our child custody attorney services, or browse our testimonials.