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Covid-19 and Child Custody in New York
November 7, 2021
COVID-19 has made the court system look at divorce, child custody and parenting plans in New York differently. In a recent case in the New York Supreme Court the Honorable Matthew Cooper, known for his groundbreaking decisions of law, the Court held that visitation can be suspended if a parent refuses to wear a mask and test or is unvaccinated. In that case while it was fact specific, the Court felt that the issue of vaccination was so relevant to a custody case that he suspended visitation when a parent refused to do so. The Court held that in order to reinstate visitation it was an imperative that the father get vaccinated or else show a negative result on the Covid 19 test prior to visits. In that case, the Court felt that it would be in the best interest of the child to be sure that the father was vaccinated. To be sure, other courts will see and decide this issue differently. The test is what is in the best interests of the child. The problem is that there are competing interests involved. First, you have to consider protecting the child’s health. Second, you have to consider that both parents should be able to have access to this.
First, you have to consider protecting the child’s health. Second, you must consider that both parents should be able to have liberal access to their children.
Other local courts have handled this matter differently. For instance, some courts allow for visitation with the proviso that both parents take the necessary precautions to keep their children safe.
Other Courts have restricted visitation when it comes to travel on a plane, or during holidays. This is because small children cannot be vaccinated as yet and becasue the Covid 19 Delta Variant has proven to put children at a higher risk of harm then the prior variant. It is also even more compelling a reason to restrict visitation when one parent or the other refuses to acknowledge that there is an actual pandemic at hand or refuses to wear a mask or require their child to wear a mask in public places.
Another interesting issue to take a look at is which parent will decide whether or not the child will be vaccinated once the vaccination is offered to a child. That would seem to go to decision-making which will require a Court to Judge which parent could best make that medical decision for the child.
Expect a multitude of legal challenges to these sorts of rulings. Liberty rights and the right to choose what you put into your body come in to play. But when it comes to custody, your child comes first and each individual party will have to make the right decision to keep their child safe or face consequences in court.
By: Lisa Beth Older, Esq.
Your Manhattan Divorce Lawyer