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Can Custody Be Challenged if Infected with COVID-19?

Since the onset of the novel coronavirus, a “new normal” is emerging, at least while we deal with the pandemic. We’re getting used to health restrictions like school closings and social distancing.

But when it comes to co-parenting, it’s only logical that legal custody issues would arise. One parent may feel the restrictions don’t go far enough to protect their children while the other parent may feel restrictions go too far. One parent may wish to quarantine their child while the other believes they should be playing with their friends.

These are a few examples that have come into play as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. If you or your ex-spouse wants to change the custody arrangements during the pandemic, be careful before you proceed. Contact a Murfreesboro family law firm for sound legal counsel.

A Front-Line Doctor Loses Custody Temporarily

The New York Times brings us a shining example of a custody challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent article details how Dr. Bertha Mayorquin, a New Jersey physician, got a surprise after she told her soon-to-be-ex-husband she was returning to her practice after a period of providing treatment via video.

When she arrived at her husband’s home to pick up her children as planned, her husband handed her a court order granting him sole custody of their young children. Wendell Surdukowsky, Dr. Mayorquin’s husband, and his attorney obtained the order from a judge who agreed with their contention that Dr. Mayorquin could expose their children to COVID-19.

Naturally, Dr. Mayorquin feels she is being treated unfairly – losing custody of her children as a price for working on the front lines of the coronavirus fight. On the other side, Mr. Surdukowsky believes that Mayorquin’s exposure to COVID-19 patients increases the chance their children, and by extension, Mr. Surdukowsky, could acquire the virus. Clearly, the landscape for family law and child custody is shifting during the pandemic.

How Has the Legal System Reacted to New Custody Issues?

These new child custody issues are catching much of the legal system off-guard around the country. Davidson County is one of the few to issue an order. The county states that when a shelter-in-place order is issued, the “primary residential parent” needs to take custody of the child within four hours of that order. The primary parent should retain sole custody of the child so long as the shelter-in-place order is in effect.

Another order from the 16th Judicial District, which includes Rutherford and Cannon Counties, states that custodial conditions remain the same when schools close and children are quarantined at home.

The order stated the following: "Parenting time/physical custody shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including but not limited to, what is commonly referred to as COVID-19." The order gives law firms a clear direction so they can guide their clients.

There is a myriad of other custody challenges for those infected with COVID-19 and for parents trying to avoid acquiring the virus. And slowly, the courts are responding. If you have a specific custody issue, contact Dotson & Taylor to help you find a resolution.

Contact a Murfreesboro Family Law Attorney for Free Consultation

We hope this guide has helped you navigate your way through the custody issues present during the pandemic. Admittedly, it can be confusing, especially because what we’re all experiencing is unprecedented.

It’s important to know that each day, we learn a little more about how the law is dealing with these new child custody issues. If you’re dealing with a custody matter with your ex-spouse, don’t do it by yourself. Protect yourself legally and enlist the help of a skilled Murfreesboro family law attorney now. Contact us now for a free initial consultation to get answers to all of your questions.