Family Law: Co-Parenting During COVID-19 Shutdowns

Photo of "COVID-19" spelled in scrabble tiles with illustrated viruses floating above

By Timothy Theissen, Matt Worth, Courtney Suhre, and Jessica Beauchamp

Effective March 23, 2020, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has ordered nonessential retail businesses to close beginning at 8 p.m. and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has issued a shelter-in-place order to begin at 11:59 p.m. Both states have provided that grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, drug stores, pet and pet supplies stores, automotive parts and repairs as well as auto, truck and van rentals, liquor stores, banks, hardware stores, veterinarian offices, UPS, and all food markets are excluded from these closures. The shelter in place order also provides that professional services, such as law firms, are considered “essential” and can remain open.

Prior to these mandates, the Ohio and Kentucky family courts have also addressed the COVID-19 pandemic by suspending in-person hearings but provide an exception for domestic violence and emergency hearings. Kentucky Courts are closed until April 10, 2020, while Ohio Courts are closed per individual county. Some of the local courts are open and operating a skeleton crew, however, most are closed to the general public and have either suspended new filings or have requested any documents be mailed or e-filed. With the exception of emergency hearings and domestic violence motions, Hamilton County Domestic Relations and Juvenile Courts are closed until April 15; Clermont County Domestic Relations Court is closed until May 1; Clermont County Juvenile Court pretrials are being held telephonically and non-emergency hearings are able to be continued upon request; Warren County Domestic Relations Court is closed until April 15; and Warren County Juvenile Court is “open with restrictions” and all hearings are able to be rescheduled upon request. Clermont County and Warren County Domestic Relations Courts are holding non-contested hearings and pretrial conferences via telephone.

During these unfamiliar and unprecedented days, our Domestic Relations attorneys continue to work diligently while also respecting the health and safety of our communities by practicing social distancing under the guidance of our local governments. We continue to have phone conferences and electronic communications with clients, we are able to engage in initial consultations via zoom and other video conferencing applications, and are attentively working on all pending matters.

The most common questions that our domestic relations attorneys have received is how to co-parent during quarantine and are parents required to/permitted to travel to exchange children pursuant to a current custody order or agreement. Section 14(e) of Ohio’s stay-at-home order provides that transporting children pursuant to a custody agreement is considered “essential travel.”  As such, parents should continue to operate and parent according to the terms of their parenting agreement/order and use their best judgment in order to keep their households and children safe. Governor DeWine is urging adults to minimize contact and exercise social distancing during the exchanges. The same goes for all Kentucky residents until we receive further directive from Governor Beshear. Continue taking the necessary precautions in order to protect the most at-risk communities, continue to physically distance yourselves from those living outside of your households, and wash your hands as the medical community advises.

If you are you interested in speaking with an attorney regarding a divorce or separation,  Strauss Troy’s Domestic Relations team is here to advise you. Our team can handle all aspects of divorce and dissolution, including complex divorce and custody cases, mediation and collaborative divorce.