Does the Stay at Home Order Trump a Custody Order in Maryland?

Does the Stay at Home Order Trump a Custody Order in Maryland?

There is a natural conflict between the following items:

  1. The stay at home order issued by Governor Hogan.
  2. The separate obey all laws order issued by Governor Hogan.
  3. The various out of state and Maryland laws requiring a 14-day quarantine when coming from or going to another state.

Many parents dealing with a custody order in Maryland may be wondering what order to follow, and if a coparent can file for contempt if the wrong choice is made.

This scenario has been playing out over and over again throughout Maryland since Governor Hogan started locking down the state in order to save lives.

So far, the takeaways are as follows:

  1. If you have a visitation order, it should be followed.
  2. If there is a COVID-19-related reason to not follow that order, speak to an experienced divorce attorney before making any decisions or taking any actions.
  3. If the other parent is not following the order, try to work it out directly using counsel or mediation. The Courts, while barely open, are not open enough to hearing these cases.

Divorce mediators are seeing huge increases in the number of mediations we do relating to whether visitation should occur, be altered, or cease during this time. We are also being called upon to discuss alternatives to traditional visitation, such as video calls, phone calls, and more. Some people are actually meeting at state lines and speaking to each other at a distance, although I am not sure this is a preferred method of continued child access.

When the smoke clears and the courts reopen and contempt cases for failure to follow a custody order in Maryland during the COVID-19 pandemic begin to rise, judges and magistrates are likely to separate the black and white cases from the gray area cases.

For parents who cut off all access to another parent, even video and phone access, beware—you are at the highest risk of being found in contempt for willfully violating your order.

For situations in which continued access would cause either exposure to COVID-19 or extended travel, parents who have proactively attempted to work with the other parent to arrange alternative access should fare better.

It will be so easy to make up time once the world reopens more fully. It is wise to accept smaller amounts of access, now, while negotiating for larger amounts of makeup time later, such as the summer or other times when your children will have open periods of time.

There are two major takeaways here:

  1. Speak to the other parent first. Communicate with them and try to create a temporary new normal, for now.
  2. Contact an experienced divorce attorney early and often and make no moves without their sage advice.

SIEGELLAW can help you. Call us at 410-792-2300 or fill out the form on this page to request additional information.