COVID-19 AND SUPERVISED VISITATION FOR FATHERS DO NOT MIX WELL

COVID-19 AND SUPERVISED VISITATION FOR FATHERS DO NOT MIX WELL

The pandemic has affected all child custody relationships, from those in which individuals have successfully co-parented to far more challenging cases.

High-conflict cases are the bane of the Court system, as they comprise the families where violence, threats, fear, and mental health challenges abound.

Overwhelmingly, men are the parents who wind up with periods of supervised visitation, often as a result of allegations of violence, self-harm, or mental health instabilities. Equally as often, men have been singled out for supervised visitation for what many perceive as utter nonsense, such as having a relationship with another person after the marriage ends or a coparent’s belief that the father cannot possibly care for a younger child based solely on his gender.

Whatever the reason, the reality is that there are far too many supervised visitation cases in the Maryland divorce and family law system.

When the pandemic hit, one of the first things to happen was all supervised visitation centers were closed by order of Governor Hogan. Most have yet to re-open, and it is possible many never will. If that is the case, fathers will need to look for new supervisors.

Before the pandemic, if a mother did not agree on a proposed supervisor selected by the father, the father could simply file a motion with the Court. But the Courts have screeched to a near grinding halt, especially for anything other than true emergency hearings, so this has not been a viable option for fathers.

The Courts are slowly re-opening, but the backlog of cases makes any quick actions also unlikely.

Fathers facing these dilemmas must align themselves with an experienced divorce attorney who can help them navigate the Courts and move their father-child relationships forward.

Sometimes, speed is not the only consideration. Rather, the quality of preparing for Court takes precedence. A  skilled divorce attorney is not going to mislead you about getting a quick Court date, but that attorney is likely to give you a roadmap and plan, so that once you get into Court, you are prepared.

An attorney might suggest counseling, specialized education, or changes to work schedules to best prepare you for the next hearing. This is incredibly individualized, of course, which is why you need to follow the path laid out by an experienced divorce attorney.

Of course, there is always a small subset of cases where supervised visits are incredibly necessary. Patience and listening to both your attorney and mental health professionals is often the key in these cases, so that the needs and best interests of your children come before your own desires for a relationship. Again, this is something for you and your family law attorney to explore together to determine the best path forward.