COVID-19 and First Responder Parents: Is a risky job grounds to change shared parenting orders?

COVID-19 and First Responder Parents: Is a risky job grounds to change shared parenting orders? Tabatha and Stephen were splitting their time with their toddler until this pandemic hit and Tabatha grew concerned about Stephen’s possible exposure to the virus as a firefighter and EMT with Osceola County Fire Rescue, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Stephen’s fiancé also works as a nurse at a hospital in an area of the hospital treating virus patients. Still, Orange County Circuit Court Judge Chiu noted that there was no evidence that Stephen was failing to follow protective procedures at work. Judge Chiu wrote, “[t]here is no evidence indicating a continuation would subject the minor child to risk of harm specific to the actions of behavior of the Father.”

Stephen is not the only First Responder facing loss of access to his or her children. The Miami Herald reports that incidents around the country have surfaced in local media in which a parent refuses to share custody as ordered because of his or her fears over the coronavirus.

In Florida, several circuit courts have already issued orders concerning parental time-sharing in these times. For example, the Ninth Judicial Circuit for Osceola and Orange Counties issued an administrative order stating the following (see link below for full text of order):

2. CONTACT WITH BOTH PARENTS; SHARED PARENTING.

a. Pursuant to all current Final Judgments, Temporary Orders, Settlement Agreements, or other orders of the court awarding parental responsibility or time-sharing, continued adherence to all Orders by all parties is expected.

b. Unless otherwise prohibited by an existing court order, each parent is prohibited from unreasonably restricting access of the child(ren) to the other parent.

We may be in a global pandemic, but -- according to this court -- parents must still behave in accordance with their respective judgments, orders, and settlement agreements. The Ninth Judicial Circuit order also warns parents “that unreasonable, hurtful, or destructive behavior may be severely and harshly sanctioned by the court, and the non-offending parent may be awarded significant make up time, including summer and consecutive major holidays, and the Court may award attorney’s fees and costs to be paid to a prevailing party.” See link to the full text of the order below. The Fourteenth Judicial Circuit in Bay, Gulf, Calhoun, Washington, Holmes, and Jackson Counties also issued a similar order cautioning parents that unreasonable, hurtful, or destructive behavior is sanctionable by the courts.

This developing story does not end here. Paragraph 2 (e) of the Ninth Circuit’s Administration Order also contains a provision that could modify parental time-sharing depending on the Governor’s “stay at home order” and local orders that pertain to you based on where you live. If you need advice with your particular custody situation and the local orders that pertain to you, please call us for a consultation.

If you or a loved one is facing a child custody issue in this trying time, please feel free to call our office today. During this pandemic, we are offering free video and telephonic consultations. Call our office today at 850-818-0236. We also have offices located in Pensacola, Fort Walton, Tallahassee and Orlando for your convenience.

Sources:

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/coronavirus/os-ne-coronavirus-child-custody-dispute-ruling-20200408-3lcrq3qxnne5lhjxlmuotorrsq-story.html

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article241492011.html

9th Circuit Order NO. 2020-07-02 Full Text:

https://www.ninthcircuit.org/sites/default/files/2020-07-02%20-%20Amended%20Emergency%20Temporary%20Standing%20Order%20Re%20Parenting%20in%20Domestic%20Relations%20Cases%2C%20Orange%20%26%20Osceola%20Counties.pdf

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