Navigating Child Custody This Holiday Season


This post was written at 9:00 a.m. on November 5, 2020. We believe that it was accurate and up to date as of that time. However, because of the rapid, daily changes in the political, business, and legal climates, we cannot guarantee the post’s currentness.

Everyone’s holiday season may look a little different this year as the pandemic has limited social interactions in many ways. Those families with separated parents could have difficult conversations this year when deciding how their children will spend quality time with their families while keeping health and safety a priority.

Having discussions about how COVID-19 affects the responsibilities and boundaries of child custody is important as we look to the end of the year and moving forward. This can help both parents understand each other’s views and create an effective plan where the child and family’s health and wellbeing are prioritized.

The reality of the holiday season is that the child will travel, greet, and be exposed to many family members on both sides whilst going back and forth between parents. While no state guidelines related to COVID-19 have altered any visitation and custody orders, there are still valid concerns parents may have during the holiday season such as

  • Exposure to family that does not follow social-distancing
  • Exposure to family that have high-risk jobs
  • Exposure to family members who are high risk
  • Exposure to an ex that is displaying COVID-19 symptoms
  • Exposure to an ex who does not follow social-distancing
  • The child is high-risk

Experts have reported that children and people of younger age are not as affected by the virus, but children with respiratory complications and underlying chronic health conditions still are as vulnerable as adults with these conditions. Analyzing the level of risk your child is at will help establish the baseline of acceptable and non-acceptable activities that the child should be involved in while visiting family. Even if your child is not considered vulnerable, parents must then consider the possibility of the child exposing high-risk family members to the virus.

These conversations will prove to be difficult as there will be disagreements on the fairness of honoring visitation during the special time of the holidays. However, it is best that parents try to establish a plan without involving the court. An important thing to remember while navigating these discussions is that compromise will be an active part in the plan. At the end of the day, both parents must keep the child’s best interest in mind. If the child is vocal about their level of comfort, including them in the conversation could be helpful.

Here are a few topics that would be helpful to discuss for child custody during the holiday season:

  • The cleanliness and sanitization of the households
  • The social activities the parents are partaking in
  • How and if the parents will establish social distancing
  • The level of exposure of the family members
  • Plans of effectively quarantining after an exposure
  • Options of virtual gatherings to spend time with family

If you have these conversations with an ex and still cannot come to an agreement both parties are comfortable with, consulting a family law attorney can help your family establish a plan for your circumstances. A family law attorney could help mediate what current state guidelines and resources provide for custody orders and help you figure out if your custody orders should be temporarily modified. If the child’s health is being put at risk, your attorney can help you get an emergency temporary custody order.

This holiday season may be stressful for families with separated parents, but having the conversation now can help ensure that the child will get to spend time with their family in the way best for their health. If your child’s health is being put at risk, contact our experienced family law attorneys to discuss your options.