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Question: My fiancé shares custody of his son. His ex-wife lives in her mother’s home, who is planning to return to the area from her retirement community in Florida where she has been for several months (in one of the cities with highest number of cases), and refuses to quarantine for 14 days. Is it logical to think that a court would grant us temporary custody during that 14-day timeframe since it would be in the best interest of the child (and others health and safety) during a global pandemic?

Answer provided by: Carol E. Cardonick, Esq. from the Law Offices of Carol E. Cardonick, P.C. with offices in Willow Grove, PA

Carol Cardonick

Critical times require us to rise to the occasion and act responsibly. Unfortunately, too often people’s emotions, rather than logical thinking fuels poor choices. Yes, it would be best for grandmother to self-quarantine for 14 days PRIOR to the child entering her residence. If this is not agreed by the child’s mother, then the parties need to look towards their current custody order. Are there any provisions that would allow for Father to withhold the child, if not then he is required to return the child for the Mother’s physical custodial period.

Presently, unless the other household has an occupant with COVID-19, there is no specific law that would support a parent from withholding a child due to the “possibility” of contracting the virus.* On the other hand, there could be other factors that could warrant judicial intervention, such as the child having underlying medical conditions which place him/her at high risk. The report/recommendation of the child’s pediatrician or other medical professional who can present the child’s medical conditions that could warrant the need for an Emergency Order could assist the Court in making a determination as to a temporary modification or restrictions pertaining to custody.

Though the Courts have been extremely limited with their operations, they have been very responsive to addressing Emergency Issues, per the guidance of the PA Supreme Court, Governor Wolf and the President Judges. In fact, some of the counties have presented Orders or proposed guidelines as to custodial protocol during COVID-19. Following are links to information from the Supreme Court of PA, Bucks County and Montgomery County addressing custody and COVID-19 etiquette and procedures. To take this burden off an already stressed Judicial system parents using some semblance of common sense, good parenting and acting for their child’s safety and well-being is clearly the best route, not just during the pandemic, but every day.  One suggestion is that the parents agree to make up time or other incentives. It clearly would be beneficial for a child to see good co-parenting that can be a positive learning experience during a difficult time.

Seek the advice of counsel to guide you and most importantly stay well and safe!

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More about this Montgomery Bar Association member-panelist (bio provided by this attorney prior to publication):

Carol E. Cardonick Esq. has been a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association since 1987 and Montgomery Bar Association since 2001. Her family law practice is based in Willow Grove, PA; however, she serves clients throughout Montgomery, Bucks, Philadelphia, Delaware and surrounding counties.  While Carol’s practice primarily focuses on custody, support, divorce, and adoption matters, she assists clients in all aspects of Family Law, as well as Mediation and Collaborative Law. She received her B.A. and Law degree from Temple University. Her background is in therapeutic areas of social work which she attributes to her compassion and empathy for parties embroiled in family law matters. Ms. Cardonick has spoken and led presentations on child custody, spousal support, alimony and divorce for various professional groups, and is member of the following Bar Associations and/or Family Law Sections: American Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Montgomery Bar Association, Bucks County Bar Association and Philadelphia Bar Association. Carol has chaired and/or co-chaired the Divorce/Equitable Distribution, Support/Alimony Committee and Custody Committee of various Bar Associations.

*Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, both state and local guidelines and restrictions are changing.  Check with your local authorities regarding regulatory requirements and consult with a lawyer for your legal questions.

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