Should You Modify Your Custody Agreement? Using CDC Tools for Guidance

By Susan Levy Eisenberg

There is renewed hope in the U.S. that the approval and distribution of vaccines to combat COVID will end this pandemic. However, unless you are in one of the most vulnerable groups, you may not be vaccinated for many months. In the meantime, your child’s safety is the priority. Sometimes this means changing a shared custody agreement for the short-term. However, both parties need to agree before you can make any modifications.

We know these are trying times for all, but you don’t need to go it alone. There are family law professionals that can assist with modifying custody arrangements. Other resources are readily available online to help guide you through these difficult decisions. Below, we share a few.

Assess your current situation

To get started, we compiled a list of questions that you and your co-parent should ask to determine if short-term changes to custody make sense. Honestly answering these questions will help guide you to the right decision.

Risk assessment questions

  • Does one parent have more exposure to the public through their occupation?
  • Are there other people in the household who have increased exposure to the public?
  • Is there an older person living in one of the households?
  • Does one of the parents or the child have an underlying condition that would increase their risk?
  • What is the level of COVID in my community, local school

Scheduling questions

  • Is one parent in a better position to provide a home-schooling environment?
  • Is there an increased risk sending the children back and forth between two homes?
  • Is there more access to outside and inside space in one home?
  • If both parents agree to scheduling changes, can virtual visits or make-up time be arranged?

Tools and checklists from the CDC

There are also several tools available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that you may find useful.

Schools and Childcare Decision Tool

This three-page checklist is designed to help you determine which school option, in person or virtual, is best for your child

Daily Life Coping – Ways to protect children from getting and spreading COVID-19.

This webpage gives you tips and links to videos with health-related teaching tools on washing hands, wearing masks, and other considerations.

Talking with children about Coronavirus – This page outlines useful strategies for parents and others who communicate with children.

Show a united front

In a shared custody situation, you can’t make decisions without the agreement of the co-parent and you must follow your court order. Parents should work together to determine if a short-term custody modification would be in everyone’s best interest.  You should document these modifications, as well as a timeline. We suggest you work with your family lawyer or a mediator to ensure that all parties are heard and protected.

Susan Eisenberg has been practicing family law in Bucks and Montgomery Counties for over three decades.  Her extensive knowledge and experience negotiating custody conflicts have earned Susan a reputation as a compassionate and fair-handed counsel.  Ms. Eisenberg and her staff are ready to listen and guide clients to an outcome that best suits the child’s needs.