We’re written about the impact that the coronavirus has had on custody cases and the limited availability of the court’s during this time. A recent story from Florida highlights the impact the virus has on “routine” custody cases where a party is employed as an essential employee and in a high risk environment. In this case, it is an ER doctor in Florida – a “front line” fighter of the virus – whose ex-husband obtained an emergency custody order granting him sole physical custody during the pandemic.
This case exemplifies the tension I described in a previous post between a conservative approach by one parent (Father wishing to limit potential contact to the virus through Mother’s potential exposure in a high risk environment) and the other parent’s approach to recognizing the risk, but taking appropriate precautions (Mother stating he wears personal protection equipment above the standard and being hyper vigilant about her risks).
In the end, there is not a “correct” answer to this issue and Father’s attorney rightfully points out that this case sets no precedence and is limited to the particular circumstances of this case. He also states that Mother will get make-up time for any time she misses and that this action was not designed to be punitive. For her part, Mother understandably feels penalized for simply doing her job and the decision being based on a risk assessment rather than actual exposure. I am sure make-up time means little to her in the short-term when it means not being able to be with her children.
It is possible in these cases for both parties to be “right” and the Court’s decision ultimately being based on how the child’s best interests are served under these facts in this moment in time. This article is an important reminder that cases like this are happening across the country and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Since this post was published, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for Florida stayed the trial court’s order suspending the ER doctor’s custodial time. The doctor can now resume her normal custodial arrangement, though it sounds the parties custody dispute may last longer than the virus.