Navigating Joint Custody During the COVID-19 Pandemic - Flexer Law

Navigating Joint Custody During the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 25, 2020, the 20th Judicial District issued an order regarding parenting time during an epidemic or pandemic. This order gives Metro Nashville guidelines for sharing custody during COVID-19.

Per these guidelines, look to your current parenting schedule to determine which parent or guardian is entitled to custody. If your parenting plan differs during the school year, the original school schedule released at the beginning of the school year (pre-COVID) controls to determine proper parenting time. 

Custody is not affected by a school’s closure due to an epidemic or pandemic. For example, if you are entitled to visitation every Friday during the school year under your parenting schedule, you are still entitled to custody of your child every Friday until the regular school year ends according to the originally published school calendar.

If you currently have physical custody of a child in violation of your court-ordered parenting schedule, you should return the child immediately to the person who is entitled to custody.

In light of the current pandemic, there are a few exceptions to the above: 

  1. If the child, a parent, or an in-home sibling or family member is diagnosed with COVID-19 while the child is present in the home, visitation is suspended for 14 days. The diagnosis should be presented to the other parent/guardian in the form of a doctor’s note. 
  2. In the event of a lockdown, or shelter-in-place order by a local, state, or federal agency, the primary residential parent (as designated in the parenting time order) will take immediate physical custody of the child until the lockdown or shelter-in-place order is lifted. Immediate physical custody here means within four (4) hours of activation of the lockdown or shelter-in-place order. 
  3. Parents/legal custodians may agree on alternate parenting time arrangements. Agreements should be in writing and signed by both parties. 

Please note: the existing order for Metro Nashville is a “Safer-at-home” order. As such, the “shelter-in-place” or “lockdown” exception above does not currently apply in our area. If you are sharing custody with a former partner in the Nashville area, parenting time should be allotted based on your current parenting schedule using the originally released calendar for your child’s school unless an alternative schedule has been agreed to by both parties and reduced to a signed document. Failure to obey a court order for visitation or access to a child could result in litigation to enforce the existing order, including contempt of court and fines.    

Do not use this pandemic as an excuse to keep your child away from your former partner. Be the voice of reason while keeping your children safe. You and your former partner are in this together. Be kind. Be patient. There is nothing to be gained from making rash decisions.  Abide by your court-ordered parenting plan unless one of the above exceptions applies to your circumstances. Remember, failure to comply with your parenting plan could result in further litigation, a fine, or even jail time.