Health care workers on the front lines are making countless sacrifices to care for others. But should they have to sacrifice custody of their own children?

A Florida case recently made headlines when an ER physician lost custody of her daughter due to the outbreak. The physician tested negative for COVID-19. Nevertheless, her ex-husband secured emergency custody of their four-year-old child until the outbreak ends, based solely on the possibility of exposure due to the mother’s profession.

Tough questions

The case, while extreme, illustrates the difficult decisions families are facing across the nation. Custody issues add a layer of complexity to an already turbulent situation.

Parents on both sides of the equation are facing tough decisions, and the questions raised by the pandemic are unsettling: Is it worth it to keep shuttling kids back and forth between two households, potentially doubling their risk of exposure? What if the other parent isn’t taking adequate precautions? How can parents comply with existing custody obligations without jeopardizing their child’s health?

Uncharted territory

While difficult decisions have always been a part of family law, the outbreak presents unprecedented challenges for everyone. Courts haven’t had to grapple with this type of dilemma – at least, not on this vast scale, and at a time when courthouses themselves are shut down. Thankfully, parents are still able to meet with their attorneys through teleconferencing, and court hearings can still be held via video.

Any custody decision involves weighing the risks and benefits to protect the child’s best interests. That means a case-by-case analysis of what makes sense for each situation. Don’t hesitate to seek legal guidance about your custody-related concerns during these uncertain times.

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