COVID-19, Virginia and Child Custody

In recent weeks, the world has seen many changes due to the impact of COVID-19. The spread of this virus has impacted the world in many ways, including a likely significant impact on custody and visitation arrangements.

The spread of COVID-19 and the government’s suggestion—or requirement, in some areas—that everyone practice social distancing and self-quarantine will undoubtedly impact custody arrangements, though the extent of the impact is uncertain at this time. The transition for many individuals to working from home, as well as the closure of schools and daycare facilities, will also likely require a temporary change in custody arrangements.

Family law expert Marcia Zug suggests that, during this unusual time, parents “should seek to work together – however difficult that may be – to provide for the best interests of their children, and to preserve a sense of fairness and equity, both emotionally and legally, however custody is shared.”

Given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, it is unclear how a court will respond to minor violations of an existing court order. On March 27, the Virginia Supreme Court issued an order continuing all “non-emergency” matters set through April 24, 2020 in order to protect the public and prevent the spread of COVID-19. This means that the court is not hearing non-emergent child custody cases during this time. Parties can file new petitions regarding child custody so as to “get in line” for when the courts are hearing new non-emergent motions, but should do so understanding that there is no set timeline in place for when they will be heard.

The Court’s Order does state that courts should give precedence to “emergency child custody or protection cases.” As of now, courts are addressing amendments to current custody orders, show causes on current orders and emergency custody petitions.

During this unprecedented time, many courts, including the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts (JDR) in Chesterfield County, are allowing for the electronic submission of petitions via email or through submission by an attorney. If you already have an order in place, and should you seek to amend a prior JDR order, should you seek a show cause on a current order or if you have the need to file an emergency custody petition, we can help.

Because each case involves unique circumstances, it is best to consult with an experienced family law attorney to explore your options. If you have concerns regarding the custody and/or visitation of your children and need assistance from someone with intimate knowledge of family law, please do not hesitate to contact our firm at 804-423-1382 or to schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of our experienced Virginia attorneys.