Child Custody in the Time of COVID-19: Travel Edition

Can I travel with my children during my court ordered parenting time?

Overview:

While this is a time of more questions than definitive answers, we have some guidance from:

·         Maryland Judiciary’s Statement on Matters Concerning Children & Families

·         Governor Hogan’s Stay At Home Order

The Judiciary’s Statement is helpful guidance for separated families whose children travel between parents and households for parenting time.  It is also a policy statement from the Maryland Judiciary that parenting time/schedule should continue as normally as possible and health and safety allow.  Court Orders (and by extension written Agreements) are still in effect. 

Governor Hogan’s Stay At Home Order allows parents to leave home to transport children for parenting time exchanges, as discussed in this blog post.

Does the Stay At Home Order Allow Travel?

Governor Hogan’s Stay At Home Order orders “[a]ll persons living in the State of Maryland…to stay in their homes or places of residence.”  It then defines certain activities that Marylanders are allowed to leave their homes to perform.  Those activities must either be to get to/from/to carry out work at an essential business, to deliver goods for non-essential businesses, and “essential activities”.

Essential activities include:

·         Obtaining necessary supplies or services;

·         Activities necessary for health and safety;

·         Serving as a caregiver;

·         Travel to/from an education institution for meals or instructional materials;

·         Outdoor exercise while maintaining social distancing;

·         Travel required by law enforcement officer or court order;

·         Travel to/from a government building for a necessary purpose.

In short, travel is allowed if for an essential activity.  If the purpose is not an essential activity, then travel is not allowed.

Does the Stay At Home Order Prohibit Leaving the State?

No, but...

When announcing issuance of this Order Governor Hogan stated that “[n]o Marylander should be traveling outside the state unless such travel is absolutely necessary.  Those who have traveled outside of the state should self-quarantine for 14 days.

And the March 30, 2020 Interpretive Guidance of the Office of Legal Counsel for the Governor interprets the Stay At Home Order states:

“In connection with the announcement of the Order, Governor Hogan stated that persons traveling into Maryland from anywhere outside Maryland are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.”  It then provides exceptions for people regularly commuting between Maryland and Washington, D.C. or people passing through Maryland and having minimal contact.

So, there’s that.

What if The Other Parent Lives Out of State?

As far as Maryland is concerned, travel for out of state parenting time is permissible under the Stay At Home Order because it is either travel required by court order or it is for caregiving of a child if there is no order. 

Before leaving for out of state travel, explore any restrictions in the other states you must pass through or where the other parent resides.  Look for limitations on who can enter airports, if parents go forward with air travel and transitions are supposed to occur inside the airport.

Also, consider carefully if you can abide by the 14 day self-quarantine upon return to Maryland.

TIP:  Carry a copy of your Court Order or parenting Agreement with you when transporting your children for parenting time.  If you have neither because the parenting time schedule is informal, then either carry a letter from your attorney describing the parenting time and reason for your leaving home or carry an e-mail or text between you and the other parent confirming your informal schedule.

If parents agree that out of state travel for parenting time is too risky, parents can jointly decide to change the schedule temporarily, which I discuss here.

Conclusion:

Stay At Home does not mean, at least as of this writing (April 7, 2020), that parents cannot travel with children if the travel is for court ordered or agreed upon parenting time.  Parents need to weigh the risks of travel against the loss of parenting time.  There are alternatives, such as future makeup time and extended virtual parenting time now.

As for leisure travel during your own parenting time, Stay At Home.  It’s not essential activity.

If in doubt, reach out to your attorney or a self-help legal service provider for advice.

Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation.  Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law.

Lindsay Parvis

Client-focused legal representation starts with listening.  I listen to my clients’ needs, goals, and priorities.  From there, I educate my clients about the law and process to empower them with information and knowledge. This is especially important because my clients often feel unheard and powerless when facing a situation that feels out of control.

 

Contact Lindsay

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