How do Stay at Home Orders Affect Custody?

Coronavirus-fueled Stay at Home orders have raised serious questions from people and families who share access of minor children.

How will the new travel restrictions affect parenting time? And what happens to the established custody schedule? Proximity and presence of a court order both play a role.

Can I Travel Locally to Drop Off/Pick Up My Kids?

Both of the Stay at Home Orders in Maryland and DC issued on March 30, 2020 allow for travel in order to comply with court orders.

If there is a custody order in place, or there is a written custody agreement or parenting plan that has been incorporated into a court order, you can travel to meet the set visitation schedule. You would be wise to carry a copy of the order and related paperwork with you when conducting such travel.

The guidance we have received from the Maryland Judiciary thus far is that people should continue to follow court orders regarding access. (However, people can always modify their custody orders, custody agreements, and parenting plans by mutual agreement.)

People who do not have a court order in place regarding custody and access, or people who have a court order in place but have subsequently changed their custody and access schedule without reducing it to a court order, should contact a family law attorney to find out how to handle their unique custody circumstances.

What if My Kids Do Not Live in the Same State?

Whether you are legally permitted to travel for purposes of custody and access may be made more cumbersome if the parents or child custodians do not live in the same state, necessitating travel across state or district boundaries. People who have to straddle multiple jurisdictions should consult a family law attorney to see if their situation is affected by the laws of each jurisdiction.

What’s Next?

The situation is evolving quickly. New recommendations and orders, and interpretations thereof, are coming out frequently on both the State and Federal levels, about what activities are permissible and safe in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. As this occurs, many questions will arise and we will continue to provide guidance to our clients about how to handle their specific issues.

The family law department at Lerch, Early & Brewer is staying on top of changes in the law that affect custody and family law issues. All of the attorneys can be reached at their office emails and telephone numbers. For other information about custody issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, also see “Custody Issues and Coronavirus: Tips for Co-parenting and Avoiding Conflict During the Pandemic.”

Erin Kopelman is a divorce attorney who handles cases involving domestic relations and family law, including issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, contact her at 301-347-1261 or [email protected].