On March 30th at 2 PM, Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam issued Executive Order Number Fifty-Five. By the end of the day the “Temporary Stay At Home Order Due to Novel Coronavirus” was in place. States around the country have been taking similar actions to stop the spread of COVID-19. “Do not go out unless you need to go out” explained Northam during his press conference.
So, what does this mean for parents that share custody?
The beginning of the stay at home order demands that “all individuals in Virginia shall remain at their place of residence”. Public and private gatherings of more than ten people are prohibited. Violators could be charged with a class one misdemeanor. This offense includes up to one year in jail with a $2,500 fine. The Governor explained that the state is not trying to put people in jail. Law enforcement will first issue a warning. Even these consequences seem lax when compared to India’s law enforcement tactics or France’s increased fines towards those that don’t comply with their nationwide lockdowns.
Within Executive Order 55, there are nine exceptions to the rule. Allowance “d” states, “Individuals may leave their residences for the purpose of traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation, or child care”. Thus, parents with court orders who are traveling to facilitate custody or visitation exchanges will not violate the Governor’s order. For families that have verbal agreements instead of court orders, the situation might be a little more complicated. If you have questions about unofficial custody or visitation agreements that you cannot resolve with your parenting partner, contact your local family law attorney.
Phillips & Peters will be able to provide some clarity for legal issues that seem more complex due to the impact of COVID-19. As always we recommend that individuals continue to follow the health guidelines provided by the CDC to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. And of course, stay at home. Our office will continue to follow the Governor’s order. We will provide over the phone meetings or video conferences for anyone that needs help moving forward.