Some parents in Montgomery County have tried to use the coronavirus as an argument for why custody or visitation rights should be revoked from their co-parent.
However, that argument hasn’t been enough for Montgomery County judges to switch a prior custody decision.
Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court Administrator Jennifer Petrella-Ahrens said the vast majority of parents who have custody issues in front of the court are working hard to honor parenting times and the idea that children need both parents in their lives.
But, there have been a few filings that cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason children should no longer visit the other parent, Petrella-Ahrens said, including one case in which a medical care professional in the home was cited as a reason why the child should no longer visit.
“Our judges are setting those for hearings to see if something else is going on but, we are trying to honor the original agreement,” Petrella-Ahrens said.
Petrella-Ahrens said the court will listen to pandemic related arguments if there is reason to believe one parent or someone in the household is sick or showing symptoms of COVID-19.
“Our court will obviously rule in the child’s best interest,” she said.
She said a priority for the court is to ensure children have consistency in their lives and especially during the pandemic.
“There is so much angst for all of us right now, and our kids are feeling that too,” she said.
Domestic relations court handles custody cases for children conceived by parents who were married. Meanwhile, Montgomery County Juvenile Court handles cases involving children born to parents who were not married.
In juvenile court, Judge Anthony Cappizi said there’s been a handful of filings related to the pandemic. Those cases have cited that a co-parent is either an essential worker or not quarantining themselves in their home.
Cappizi said the court has not entertained those arguments, adding that something else needs to be wrong for him to change a custody agreement.
“I’m not going to let someone stop visitation without warrant. And not just on that basis,” he said.
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