How Holiday Travel with Your Children During the Pandemic Could Impact Your Child Custody Case

Sharing a child or children between two households during the holidays can be particularly stressful in a normal year because everyone wants to be able to spend time with their family. However, this year is a little different due to COVID-19, not only because it may be months since someone has last seen their family members, but because of the risk that you or someone you love may contract the virus by spending time together during the holidays. Going to family members’ homes is strongly discouraged by public health authorities because close contact with other households and closed environments are known to facilitate secondary transmission of COVID-19.[1] Even with the risk, you and your child’s other parent may not agree about how to protect yourselves from the virus during the holidays, meaning that the other parent may be okay with taking your child to their family’s house for the holidays while you may not be.

Although you may disagree with your child’s other parent’s choice to put themself and your child at risk by going to a holiday event, it is very important that you abide by all current custody and visitation orders that you may have in place. Generally, each parent is permitted to travel during the holidays, regardless of whether the other parent agrees, unless the custody order specifically prohibits out-of-state travel or provides other restrictions. This means that if you prevent the other parent from taking your child during a holiday during which they have custody, you risk being held in contempt for violating the court order.

However, if one parent violates the state Public Health orders by congregating with more than three households or refuses to put masks on your children that are over two years of age while congregating with other households, it is possible to request a modification of the child custody order. In order to request a modification of the child custody and visitation order, there must have been a change in circumstances since the order was made. If one parent is willfully putting their child’s health at risk by taking them to public gatherings without taking any precautions or in direct violation of orders from the California Department of Public Health, and the orders were made prior to the Pandemic, such circumstances may be enough for the court to grant a modification. Note that doing so should not be done simply to harass one parent and stop them from seeing your child. If parents are taking proper precautions by following CDC guidelines[2] and the mandates[3] set forth by the local and state public health officers, then there is likely no justification to request a modification.

Additionally, be cautious about deciding to take your child to other households during the holidays. If you decide to take your child out of state to visit family, and your child custody order allows for out-of-state travel, be sure to check whether the state you will be traveling to requires a quarantine period. For example, Hawaii has a two-week quarantine for all out-of-state visitors so if you were to travel to that state with your child, you would both would be required to quarantine.[4] If your child custody order does not allow you a full two weeks of custody of your children, then you will not be able to travel to that state with your child unless the other parent allows you the time. Moreover, while California has now enacted a voluntary two-week quarantine for anyone traveling to or back to California from another state, it is still only an advisory and the quarantine is not mandatory.[5] This means that your child will not be required to self-quarantine upon return to the state of California, although making the choice with the other parent to allow a quarantine period for your child to protect them, and other people, would be advisable.

If the other parent contracts Covid-19 while traveling by themselves or with your child during the holidays, and they want to continue to have visitation with your child, try to come to an agreement with them to shift the custody schedule so that they have more time after they have recovered and completed the self-quarantine period. Remember, this year has been hard on everyone so try and enjoy the time you have with your child/children without getting into a huge disagreement with the other parent about Covid-19 precautions.

If issues arise then try your best to come to an agreement. If that is not possible and you feel that the health and safety of your child is at risk, it is important that you seek advice from knowledgeable attorneys. At Argyris Mah, LLP, our experienced and skilled attorneys will help guide you through the process and come up with a plan tailored to your individual situation and needs.

Please contact our office at 408-564-5674 or info@argyrismah.com to set up an initial free consultation.

  1. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/CDPH-Guidance-for-the-Prevention-of-COVID-19-Transmission-for-Gatherings-10-09.aspx?campaign_id=49&emc=edit_ca_20201019&instance_id=23270&nl=california-today&regi_id=116722666&segment_id=41491&te=1&user_id=c34e7f3de542f66c1facd8e9ba615d8a#
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html
  3. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx; https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/limited-stay-at-home-order.aspx
  4. https://www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/covid-19-updates/
  5. https://www.visitcalifornia.com/latest-covid-19-coronavirus/; https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2020/11/13/calif-issues-travel-advisory-asking-visitors-to-quarantine/

Some of the ideas for this blog were inspired by the article listed below.

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/holiday-travel-with-your-children-53806/

 

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