Alameda County Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines During COVID-19 Emergency
Alameda County has provided written guidelines for parents experiencing custody disputes and conflict in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court’s goal in issuing these guidelines is to advise parents to follow existing Court orders to the extent possible while also taking into account public health directives. A summary of the Court’s expectations are as follows:
- COVID-19 is NOT a reason to deny visitation. In general, the Court deems parents fit to care for their children and make parenting decisions regarding their daily care during each parent’s custodial time. This includescomplying with all local, state, and federal directives regarding the current COVID-19 crisis.
- School Time Custody Order Clarification. Despite school closures, the existing school-time custody orders remain in effect. The closure of schools for public health purposes is not an extension of break/vacation/holiday/non-school day or weekend. Parents should continue to follow the school calendar as though school was still in session.
- Supervised Visitation. Professional and non-professional supervised visitation orders shall be enforced consistent with public health orders. If supervised visitation cannot occur, parties should seek supervised visitation through remote means such as videoconferencing or by telephone. Parties should inquire with supervised visitation agencies whether remote visitation is available.
- Visitation Exchanges. Parents must work together to agree on new exchange locations if necessary. For example, parents who typically exchanged at schools or extracurricular locations should agree to alternative public settings. If no agreement occurs, the receiving parent should pick up the child curbside at the relinquishing parent’s home. If a restraining order is currently in place, then the entrance or lobby to the nearest police station of the relinquishing parent should be the exchange location.
- Parental Communication. Unless parents are restricted from communicating by court order, they are encouraged to communicate about measures to be taken to assure the health and safety of their children in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The failure to engage in such communication is not, however, the basis to deny parenting time to a parent unwilling to participate in that communication.
- Limitations to Guidelines. These guidelines are not the exclusive remedy to resolve all disputes that might arise during the COVID-19 crisis. However, before any ex parte request is brought to the Court, these guidelines should be considered. Now, more than ever, parents need to co-parent and genuinely consider what is in their child’s best interests.
- Future Modifications of Custody and Visitation Orders. Unreasonable denial of a parent’s custodial time during the COVID-19 crisis may be strongly considered in any subsequent modification of custody and visitation request.