Complying with Custody Orders During COVID-19 Pandemic
While everyday life has changed in many respects during the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing has not changed: parties still need to follow their custody orders in the vast majority of cases. Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home order specifically includes an exception for travel required by court order, as well as travel related to caring for a minor. On the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania website’s “Responding to COVID-19” page, the FAQ specifically references the fact that custody orders are still in full force and effect and should be respected:
[T]he governor’s Stay at Home order does not change or overrule custody orders or agreements. Those orders will continue to govern where the child will reside. More broadly, a parent should not use the crisis as an excuse to violate court-ordered custody arrangements. If you feel you have an emergency reason (compromised health, etc.), the courts are open for emergency petitions. (“Responding to COVID-19”, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/.
In emergency circumstances, it may be necessary to temporarily alter the terms of a custody order, either by agreement of the parties or by petitioning the court. Circumstances that could justify an emergency custody petition include, but are not limited to: illness with COVID-19 in a party’s household; suspected child abuse; suspected drug use by a party; or a party’s serious mental health concerns.
If you believe that you have an emergency situation that would necessitate altering your current custody order, and the other party does not agree, or if one parent is withholding custody due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Tanner Law Offices at 717-731-8114 to schedule a consultation.