Does the COVID-19 Response Justify Modification of Visitation Rights?

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, it’s natural for parents to wonder if the risk of contracting the virus should impact their child visitation plan. New York was hit particularly hard by COVID-19, and parents may be tempted to simply keep their child at home rather than risk spread of the disease by carrying on with visitation routines.

While this may seem like a simple safety measure, it’s important to remember that court orders are still enforceable. If you take it upon yourself to deny the other parent visitation, it’s possible the court may find you in violation of your parenting plan.

The better course of action is to discuss your case with a New York child visitation lawyer. It may be possible to obtain a temporary modification of your visitation schedule. While courts have held that a generalized fear of the coronavirus is insufficient to block another parent’s visitation, certain specific circumstances may warrant a modification. These might include:

  • The other parent testing positive for COVID-19 or recently having been in contact with someone who tested positive.
  • The other parent being in situations where they are regularly exposed to COVID-19. For example, if they work in health care or another job with public contact.
  • There is a serious risk of the child being exposed to COVID-19 if the visitation proceeds as usual. For example, the other parent lives in a crowded apartment building where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing.

Because each case presents different circumstances, it can be difficult to predict how a court will rule on a modification request. The law generally favors children spending time with both parents as much as possible. If the other parent can show they have a safe environment for the child during the pandemic, it’s unlikely the court will modify the visitation order. Moreover, the parent requesting the modification of the visitation order has the burden to show why the court should grant their request.

As a parent, you naturally want to keep your child safe but you don’t want to run afoul of your legal obligations under your parenting plan. For advice on how to deal with visitation issues during the COVID-19 crisis, contact the Law Office of Maurice J. Verrillo, P.C. in Rochester at 585-563-1134. You can also contact us online.


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