MAJ Webinar Recap: Handling Child Visitation Amid a Pandemic
On Monday, March 30, 2020, our attorneys attended the Maryland Association for Justice (MAJ) webinar titled “Handling Child Visitation Issues Amid a Pandemic.” The webinar featured a panel consisting of a Judge and Family Magistrate from the Circuit Court for Howard County. The Judge and Family Magistrate answered time-sensitive questions about how the courts are dealing with family law cases amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some of the most important and relevant takeaways from the webinar:
Unless the parties agree otherwise, all court orders regarding child custody and access are still in effect.
The Governor’s March 30, 2020 “Stay-At-Home” Order does not affect custody orders, and parents should still abide by the terms and provisions of a custody order, including transitioning children between households.
Courts are working diligently to reset cases, schedule new cases, and rule on pleadings and motions in a timely manner, despite having limited staff. Courts are only hearing family cases with genuine emergencies. An emergency is one where there is a “credible risk of imminent and substantial physical or emotional harm to a child or parent.”
Because the Courts are running on limited staff, and because there will be hundreds of cases that need to be reset once the Courts reopen, parties are encouraged to seek alternative dispute resolution methods, like mediation or Parent Coordination. This will provide for a quicker resolution than the Courts are able to offer to resolve a problem.
Any unreasonable action taken during the crisis (such as unreasonably denying access, unreasonably refusing to follow a custody order or unreasonably demanding access that is not in the best interest of the children) may have a negative impact on future litigation.
Now is the time to exercise common sense, be flexible, and accommodating. This is difficult advice, especially in the realm of family law, but it is necessary to keep people healthy and safe.
As always, consult your attorney if you have any questions specific to your case. The Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman LLC remains open and available to help. We can provide mediation and Parent Coordination remotely or assist in negotiating temporary child access or child support agreements for the duration of the crisis.
This is a constantly evolving situation, and as we receive guidance from the State and Judiciary, we will keep our clients informed.
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If you have questions during this unprecedented time, please email Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our main number 410-842-1070. For the foreseeable future, we will work remotely and be available by telephone and virtually to serve our clients. We will be in touch with any clients impacted by the Court's closing as soon as we have more information. If you are a client who is having issues with custody/access during the quarantine, please do not hesitate to reach out.
If you are in a domestic abuse situation and need help, please call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522. Domestic abuse is a serious matter and can be heightened during times like now, where we are encouraging social distancing and quarantine. Our attorneys will continue to handle domestic violence cases throughout this time. Courts are still open to handle these important proceedings.