Contra Costa Emergency Rules Related to Child Custody and Visitation
Contra Costa County has enacted Temporary Emergency Local Rules that are intended to provide guidance for parents experiencing custody disputes and conflict in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court’s expectation is that for the majority of custody disputes, these guidelines will apply; however, they are not all-inclusive or exclusive solutions to the unknown issues that might arise during the coronavirus crisis. A summary of the Court’s expectations are as follows:
- Specific facts in addition to COVID-19 are required to modify a custody order. The mere existence of the current pandemic does not automatically warrant a change in custody/visitation. Requests made based on fears, concerns, or beliefs without support facts are not enough.
- 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 includes complying 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.
- If exchanges typically occur at school or an extracurricular activity, the receiving parent shall pick up from the relinquishing parent’s home. If the children are old enough, pickups shall be curbside and without assistance from the relinquishing parent. If there is a restraining order in effect, exchanges shall be at the parking lot of the police station nearest to the home of the relinquishing parent. Parents may mutually agree in writing (including email or text) to any other exchange arrangements.
- Public Visitation Exchanges. If current orders require exchanges inside a public location, the exchange shall move to the parking lot of the location. If the children are old enough, pickups shall be curbside and without assistance from the relinquishing parent. Neither parent shall attempt to engage in conversation or make comments during exchanges.
- Parenting Time in Public Places. If visitation is ordered to occur in a public location, visitation may continue at a location that is in compliance with public health directives. The parties shall work cooperatively to find suitable alternative locations if necessary and document their efforts through email, text, or online co-parenting tool (such as Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents) when possible. If such a location cannot be found, visits shall occur by video (Skype, FaceTime, etc.) or telephone for a reasonable amount of time relative to the age and developmental characteristics of the children.
- Supervised Visitation
- Non-Professional Supervised Visitation: As long as the non-professional supervisor is willing to serve and the visits can be in a location that is in compliance with the public health directives, the visits may continue.
- Professional Supervised Visitation: These visits are suspended. The parents may agree to alternative methods of visitation that can occur in a location that complies with public health directives.
- Video Visitation: For parents who cannot exercise supervised visitation due to the COVID-19 crisis, visits shall take place via video (FaceTime or Skype) or by phone, for a reasonable amount of time relative to the age and developmental characteristics of the children.
- Visitation Requiring Public Transportation (air, train, or bus). These visits shall not require modification if the carrier being utilized has written information or information posted online confirming the carrier is in compliance with public health directives. If a previously utilized carrier is not currently available, parties shall work cooperatively to find a suitable alternative carrier.
- Return to Current Custody/Visitation Orders. Upon removal of the public health restrictions due to COVID-19, parents shall immediately return to the existing custody order if it had been affected by the COVID-19 crisis.