Recently, our team at the Atlanta Divorce Law Group has received a lot of questions from our clients about child custody agreements during the Coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous lockdown orders in place across the United States to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Over the past several weeks, states including Georgia have pushed to reopen non-essential businesses.
On Friday, April 24th, Georgia became one of the first states to experiment with easing stay-at-home orders. According to CNN, Gov. Brian Kemp allowed hair and nail salons, barbershops, massage parlors, and gyms to reopen. Families and parents are eager to travel this summer for vacation when it is deemed safe. But, as the country attempts to open, domestic travel appears to be more reliable than international travel.
If your child custody agreement allows you to travel out of state with your children over the summer break but your ex does not want you to go, you need to understand your options. Your ex may attempt to prevent you from taking the kids on vacation. But, do they have any legal right to do so?
Once a child custody agreement has been reached, both parents must abide by its terms. If either party does not obey their child custody order, then the party seeking enforcement of its terms can file a contempt petition against the offending party.
If a vacation schedule is outlined in a custody order, then each party must honor that schedule. However, the courts generally will not enter a contempt order until the custody order has been violated or there is a clear indication that the custody order will not be followed. During these uncertain times, it is best to use good judgment if it is safe for you and your family to go on vacation.
At the Atlanta Divorce Law Group, our recommendation is to always follow the custody order. If your ex plans a vacation that is not consistent with the custody order, they may be found in contempt. If the courts find that a party is in contempt, they may impose monetary punishments, modify the custody order, and in some cases, issue jail time.
In the future, you should take the following steps before taking your children on vacation:
Avoiding the consequences of violating a custody order involves reviewing its terms and making note of any significant limitations or notice requirements. For example, a child custody order may require you to obtain permission from the court to leave the state with your children. If you are required to complete this step, you will need to file a written request with the court to leave the state with your kids.
You will want to notify your ex that you would like to travel with your children. You should also provide your ex with your travel itinerary, including dates, locations, and where you are staying. It is also useful to provide contact information for where you are visiting in the event of an emergency.
Your ex may not want you to travel during the Coronavirus pandemic. But, if the court order allows you to do so, you should still take measures to stay safe under the given circumstances. While traveling with your children may require additional steps, it can be accomplished with the help of an attorney.
If you have any questions about how child custody has been impacted by the Coronavirus situation, please feel free to give us a call. We would be happy to discuss your case in greater detail.