Capell & Howard P.C. Attorneys At Law Montgomery & Auburn/Opelika, AL

If A Shelter-In-Place Order Comes What Happens To Joint Custody Or Visitation

March 31, 2020

By Allen Sheehan & Faith Twiggs

The Problems Now

Across the our country, state and local governments have announced versions of Shelter-In-Place Orders. In Alabama, some local governments have imposed curfews or other restrictions on movement in an effort to slow the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those parents already divorced have been discovering that their Divorce Decrees or Child Custody Agreements are not necessarily well-suited to these new conditions. School closures, daycare closures, and work-from-home arrangements radically increased the degree of difficulty for custodial parents. Stress and uncertainty do not evoke the best behavior in everyone. Differences of opinion about safe practices or the degree of risk create opportunities for new conflict over children.

Complications May Arise Under Shelter-In-Place Orders

As difficult as these issues may seem now, restrictive conditions will likely make things worse. Fortunately, some governmental entities issued guidance relating to custody issues as part of their Shelter-In-Place Orders. For example, in some places Shelter-In-Place Orders incorporate provisions allowing travel to exchange custody of children under an existing Court Order. For instance, the Texas Supreme Court issued an Emergency Order that stated that “[p]ossession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in place order or other order restricting movement issued by a governmental entity that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID-19 pandemic.” Other states, like Michigan, Massachusetts, and California issued similar guidance for parents navigating the new conditions.

What happens now if Alabama enacts a Shelter-In-Place Order?

Should the Governor order a Shelter-In-Place Order in Alabama, we hope it will include guidance on this issue. Parents operating under existing Divorce Decrees or Child Custody Agreements need that. Until that guidance comes, it is important to make co-parenting decisions that are in the best interest of your children. Many Divorce Decrees and Child Custody Agreements permit parents to agree to alter custodial time. If yours does not have this provision, you might want to seek a modification. Likely some circumstance in your life, your co-parent’s life, and your children’s lives have changed in the last few weeks. It is crucial that parents work together and cooperate with each other to share in childcare responsibilities.

If you have questions about what to do while your divorce is pending, call Capell & Howard at 334-241-8000 and ask for one of our domestic relations attorneys: Bob Meadows, Allen Sheehan, Faith Twiggs, or Blake Brookshire.

This is a summary. This information should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice. Reviewing this information alone does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with a professional adviser about your situation.

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