Noncustodial parents face visitation difficulties during COVID-19 restrictions

Putting together a care package is one thing non-custodial parents can do if unable to see their children during the coronavirus.

For families broken by divorce or separation, life is a balancing act in the best of times. Now—during the coronavirus-related restrictions in place—many noncustodial parents have been facing unexpected consequences with the mandatory quarantine in place.

Several local families have been dealing with visitation problems, suspension of visitation, financial issues, or social distancing guidelines, and are concerned about the impact this state of affairs has on their children.

One local parent, “John” (names withheld to protect family privacy) stated that he has not been able to see his child for six weeks. He is allowed visitation as much as the custodial parent will allow, but the court only mandated the custodial parent make the child available for weekly visits at the YMCA. 

Due to the coronavirus-induced restrictions on public areas, the YMCA is not currently allowing visitation, and the custodial parent has not been willing to allow any other type of visitation, including phone calls, facetime, or texts.

With so many other venues opening to online or mobile options, John asked if other options were available, but was told, “the YMCA can’t facilitate visitation except in the building, and due to privacy laws they cannot function as a mobile office.” Due to the specifics of the visitation order, no other location can be used for supervised visits and, “the court system is overwhelmed and this isn’t a physical safety emergency, so there is nothing they will do for me,” he noted.

John’s main concern is that this situation “creates a distorted worldview for the child. It’s not okay to withhold communication, and this causes an unbalanced power struggle with the child at the center of it.” He continues to hope the YMCA will reopen visitation areas soon, or the custodial parent will allow some type of communication. In the meantime, he adds items to a care package for his child, for when he is able to reestablish visits.

A noncustodial parent near Lynch Station has concerns for her ability to afford basic necessities. With many local stores closing or reducing store hours, nearly the entirety of “Mary’s” paycheck goes to child support. While she understands the importance of supporting her children, she is concerned about the long-term effects of reduced employment.

“I’m thankful not to have to worry about being evicted yet, but if I can’t pay my monthly car bill, then I can’t get to work, and then I can’t help with my kids at all. And when the quarantine is over, if I have lost my car, then I lose my job, and then I’m homeless and have no way to work.”

She hasn’t had any concerns with visitation, and she retains an open co-parenting relationship, but she is concerned, as her support comes directly out of her check. She is working enough to pay support but with nothing left over except enough for a tank of gas to get to work.

One co-parenting family has not had any issues with visitation or support, but has had more problems agreeing on an appropriate level of social distancing and balancing childcare. To try to make everyone more comfortable, “We agreed to minimal social contact. I provided masks for the children to wear and have tried to impress on them the importance of washing their hands and not touching their face,” “Michelle” reported.

For the full story, be sure to pick up a copy of the April 29 print edition of The Union Star. It is available on newsstands throughout the greater Brookneal area. Or call (434) 376-2795 to order a subscription to be delivered directly to your home or business.