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How to handle custody and visitation exchanges in the State of Georgia in regard to the COVID-19/Coronavirus

UPDATED 4/7/2020

The Governor of Georgia has stated in an executive order that travel for custody and visitation exchanges are considered to be “essential” travel and therefore existing parenting plans and visitation schedules are to continue, unless you are under special circumstances.

As things are currently scheduled, the Shelter-in-Place order will expire on April 13.  This order may or may not be extended. In any event, if one parent is vindictively keeping the child from another parent, getting a court date could be delayed depending on when courts will reopen, but there will be some justifiably mad parents out there if their child has been removed from them. 

What are you supposed to do in a divorce or custody matter in the State of Georgia in regard to the COVID-19/Coronavirus? Here is how to handle it:

  • If the child is not sick, the other parent is not sick, there are no other sick people in the home and the child is not at risk, then go through with the custody exchange as normal.
    • This is the instruction given by both Fulton and Cobb County Superior Court.
  • What happens if there is a mandatory shelter in place order?  According to the Rockdale County Health Department, travel for parenting exchanges is considered to be “essential” travel and legally allowed with a shelter in place order.  Thus make the exchange as normal.
  • However, if the child is sick, the other parent is sick or if the child may have been exposed to the virus, then use common sense.  A person who has the symptoms of the COVID-19/Coronavirus or may have been exposed to it is currently instructed to self-isolate for 14 days. The child should be removed from anyone who may have been exposed.
    • In such a circumstance, explain this to the other party and give specifics.  Be polite, be cordial and arrange for make-up time.
    • Obtain medical care if necessary.
    • It may be preferable for the child to be with the other parent if exposure is less likely.
    • Do not use the virus as an excuse to violate or change a parenting plan.  Act only in good-faith and do not use it as a weapon as there could be repercussions.
      • Remember, the other parent is capable of caring for the child as well.
      • It is only if there is a real and present danger that you should not abide by the parenting plan or custody order.

The COVID-19/Coronavirus is a once-in-a-lifetime circumstance which can require special consultation around custody and visitation.  Please reach out if you have questions, we are happy to discuss this with you.