How to follow a court order in the pandemic era

With Covid-19 being in our world for two years now and issues of what to do when parents can’t agree on something as basic as whether or not to have the child vaccinated, it might be a good time to go over what you can and can’t do in regards to your custody agreement or your court order.

Most likely if you are a divorced parent you will have joint legal custody of your child. That means both parents need to consult with each other before making any decisions regarding their child.

So, if the parents are able to come to an agreement, great. That makes life so much easier. But if they’re not, they will need to go to court.

The trouble occurs when a parent makes the sole decision that they’re going to ask for forgiveness from the court rather than permission. Asking for permission is filing a request with the court and waiting for the judge’s answer. It’s the correct process to go through in these situations. The problem most parents would attest to is that it is very time consuming. Courts do not work quickly.

You’ll need an attorney to draft all the documents. That can take a couple of weeks. And then you need to schedule a hearing. That takes even more time as the schedule is usually backlogged 45 to 60 days out, maybe even longer.

Hopefully, at that hearing the judge will say yes or no to your request. But there’s always the fear your case will be continued to an even later date for whatever reason. It leaves a lot of parents shaking their heads in frustration.

But back to asking for forgiveness. In this case, the one parent who disagrees with the other parent will just take their child without permission and get the Covid-19 vaccine. Basically, they’re saying, “What are you going to do about it?”

Well, there’s plenty a judge can do, if the judge chooses to do so. The parent can be fined or even jailed in a more extreme circumstance. Visitation and other custody privileges can be reduced or terminated.

Then again, a judge can do nothing. It’s up to the judge. But it’s a real gamble to go through.

Vaccines have made the news lately, but there are other pandemic-related issues that can put a wedge in custody agreements.

How often someone can leave the house has become an issue. And even more with teenagers, who can they hang out with, where can they go and what are they allowed to do. Other areas of a social life can get involved, such as eating at restaurants and going to department stores.

Even the idea of wearing a mask has found its way into family court during the pandemic.

If you don’t want to wait for weeks or months for a judge’s ruling, you can file what is known as an ex-parte motion, which is basically asking for an emergency hearing. And while that sounds tempting as it speeds up the clock for the court system, please make sure it is a bona fide emergency. No judge wants to agree to this only to find out it wasn’t truly an emergency.

And it’s a good way to use up your political capital with the justice system.

One more thing and I touched upon it earlier: It is never, ever a good idea to violate a court order. Not for a vaccine, a mask, who your kids play with or even a trip to France. It will always come back to bite you, somehow. Don’t do what you think is right. Do what is legal. It’s about following the law or getting penalized by the court.