On Tuesday, the Family Court Advisory Commission released an updated list of Custody and Visitation Recommendations During COVID-19 that was previously released in April. This list aims to provide guidance to families with existing Chapter 50 custody and/or visitation orders. In North Carolina law, Chapter 50 is a collection of statutes and laws pertaining to divorce, child custody, child support, and the grounds and requirements for each.
The goal of these recommendations is to encourage parties to follow their parenting plan and/or custody order as closely as possible to ensure the best interest of the child(ren). North Carolina’s Phase 2 plan does not prohibit travel for the purpose of complying with child custody or visitation arrangements. For this reason, parties should continue to follow their parenting plan or custody order.
The updated list covers the following:
Denial of Parenting Time – Fear of COVID-19 is not a reason to deny parenting time. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, parents are considered fit to care for their child(ren) and make decisions regarding their day-to-day lives while the child(ren) are in their care.
Supervised Parenting Time – If a party has supervised visitation and the supervisor is unavailable, parenting time should be conducted virtually via videoconferencing or telephone. Parties may also consult with their attorney about finding alternative supervisors for parenting time.
Exchanges – Parties should consult with their attorney if circumstances exist that would alter each party’s responsibilities as they relate to custody. During the exchange of the child(ren), all parties should follow CDC guidelines for limiting the spread of the virus.
Parenting Time in Public Places – Parenting time in public should continue at locations that are permitted under Governor Cooper’s order and in accordance with health and safety guidelines.
Definition of Vacation and Holidays – During the school year, parenting time shall continue in accordance with the regular school calendar of the appropriate district.
Safety-Related Issues – If a parent or member of their household is diagnosed with COVID-19 or displays symptoms, the other party should be notified as soon as possible. If a current court order prohibits communications between the parties, the other party should be notified by some method other than direct contact.
Transparency – Unless restrained by a court order, parents are encouraged to communicate with their children what precautions they can take to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Attorneys Representing Clients with Custody and/or Visitation Orders – Attorneys are to encourage their clients to work together with their child(ren)’s best interest in mind, to remotely mediate any disputes over custody exchanges, or to negotiate reasonable terms with opposing counsel.
The entire announcement with the complete list of guidelines can be viewed here. Individuals with questions about parenting time or custody orders should contact their attorney.