If A Parent Wants To Temporarily Relocate Due To Covid-19 Or The Pandemic, Is It Possible The Courts Will Grant Such A Temporary Petition?
It is currently unresolved whether courts will allow temporary petitions to move away due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the beginning of the COVID pandemic, which is a year-and-a-half ago now, the family court was totally closed for a while. Then, sometime later, it opened for emergencies only and for certain kinds of cases like child neglect and delinquency cases. Custody and visitation cases were not allowed to be filed for quite a long time. Then, eventually, the court started taking filings but not giving court dates.
So, as of yet, there are actually very few cases like this (where a parent petitions for temporary relocation due to COVID) that have made their way through the pipeline. As such, there are really very few rulings on the matter so far. This means that it remains to be seen how the rulings will turn out, and is still an open question.
If a person needed to move with their child due to COVID-19, I would encourage them to file. However, there’s no way of knowing at this time how a court would end up deciding. All that we know is that, as always, the best interest of the child is the guiding principle.
What Types Of Decisions Are Co-Parents Particularly Struggling With This Year?
One of the big issues that’s come up in some of my cases is that some custodial parents were (or are) denying visits completely due to COVID. Sometimes this is a decision that the two parents made in agreement with one another, and sometimes it’s something the custodial parent decides to do without the other parent’s consent.
There were cases that were pending where the court had to decide whether there should be any kind of physical visits at all during the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. These cases were generally decided on a case-by-case basis.
I also saw supervised visits get limited and become unavailable for some time. In cases where the non-custodial parent only had supervised visitation (for whatever reason), the visits would take place at an agency before the pandemic. However, many if not all of the agencies were closed for much of the beginning of the pandemic. Therefore, at first, those visits weren’t happening at all. They were sometimes replaced with virtual visits.
Now, some are still virtual, but some are also physical. The courts have to decide whether parents should get virtual-only visits with their children if it was unsafe to have physical visits with the children.
So those are big issues involving COVID and they’re still going on, a lot of them. Other issues involving COVID were for child support. Many parents either couldn’t or didn’t work during COVID. So, many parents were claiming they shouldn’t have to pay child support, or it should be reduced during COVID. These were also issues that the courts had to decide on a case-by-case basis. A lot of those cases are still pending. A lot of the COVID issues are still up in the air.
If Divorced/Separated Parents Disagree On Whether To Vaccinate Their Child Against COVID-19 In New York, Who Decides?
Disagreement between parents about vaccination is an issue that’s just starting to crop up now. As a matter of fact, I have a pending case where one parent is refusing to vaccinate the child. Basically, although the courts haven’t really made decisions on this yet, it looks like a few outcomes are probable.
- Sole Custody Situations: If one parent has sole custody, then that parent makes medical decisions for the child. Therefore, that parent would make the decision about whether or not to allow their child to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Joint Parenting Situations: If parents have joint custody, then both parents have to agree on all decisions involving the health of the child. Therefore, both parents would have to agree to give their child a vaccination in most joint custody situations.
- Situations With No Custody Order: If there is no custody order, then both parents have equal rights to decide on medical issues for the child. Therefore, in these cases, one parent could decide to take the child for a vaccination even if the other parent is opposed to it.
In all of those situations, if there is some kind of dispute, then either parent can go to court to try to order or prevent a vaccination (depending on their desire/stance on the matter). If one parent goes to court to pursue an order regarding the vaccine, then the other parent could counter-sue to pursue their desired outcome.
So far, these matters have largely been decided on a case-by-case basis. I’m reasonably sure that in most cases, unless there’s some good reason for a child not to be vaccinated, that the court would decide that a vaccination is in the child’s best interest.
This would depend on the age of the child, since as of right now, the CDC is not recommending vaccinations for children 12 years of age or younger. Factors like that would certainly enter into the court’s decision on whether a vaccination should be allowed or not allowed.
How Have Other Standard Vaccine Disagreements Between Co-Parents Been Handled Up Until 2021 In New York?
In my experience, vaccine disagreements have historically been quite rare. I personally have never dealt with any of those cases. I think this is influenced by the fact that many of these vaccinations are required in order to get a child into school. I don’t think there are too many schools in New York State that would allow a child to attend without certain vaccinations.
So, in short, I don’t think that’s an issue that would really come up outside of a COVID-19 context that frequently. However, if it did, I think that unless the child has a health condition which would prevent a vaccination, a court would order a vaccination. This would be so that the child can attend school as well as for the general welfare of the child.