As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect every aspect of daily life, both the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Jersey court system have issued guidelines about how to minimize transmission and the associated health risks. Unfortunately, one of the biggest reasons the pandemic has persisted for so long is because some U.S. residents and officials have failed—if not outright refused—to follow these guidelines.
If your ex is not taking proper COVID precautions and you believe they may be putting your child at risk, there are legal ways of compelling them to act safely. A qualified custody attorney could explain these steps in greater detail and help you resolve the issue through private negotiation or court intervention.
Although it may feel like an uncomfortable prospect, private negotiation may be the most effective option when it comes to resolving any disputes with your former spouse over childcare. Resorting to a court motion is a significant escalation, so if there is any way you and your former spouse can clear up a misunderstanding or correct an issue in private, this may be the best way to protect your child’s best interests.
If you are concerned about your ex’s willingness to discuss your child’s needs in good faith and agree to change their own behavior, an experienced lawyer could help you find and review options for private third-party mediation. In certain situations, New Jersey courts also offer custody mediation services that can proceed over the phone or through Zoom.
If you are unable to reach a mutual agreement with your ex about how best to ensure your child’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, a court can step in and compel your ex to change their behavior under specific circumstances. Specifically, you must be able to prove that your child will suffer immediate and irreparable harm if your ex continues to disobey COVID safety guidelines.
If the situation is an emergency, you could file for an Order to Show Cause and seek an emergency order for custody from a judge. However, this must be based on a compelling evidence-based argument that your child would suffer irreparable harm from continuing to live with your ex while they are not taking proper COVID precautions. This course of action might be appropriate if your child is immunocompromised or has other medical issues that put them at high risk of harm from a coronavirus infection. Alternatively, if your ex was recently exposed to COVID-19 but refuses to quarantine from your child, this may be another reason for prompt legal action.
In less immediately dangerous situations, you can still file a motion for a modification to your custody or visitation order. This will proceed at a slower pace but could still help you ensure your child’s safety. In order for a court to agree to modify a custody arrangement, you would need to prove that a significant change in circumstances has made the existing order hazardous to your child’s health. For instance, your ex taking a job that may routinely expose them to COVID-19 may put your child at risk and warrant a custody modification.
No matter what course of action you choose to pursue, having knowledgeable legal counsel by your side could ease the process and increase your chances of a successful outcome. Call today to schedule a consultation.