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No Mask – No Child Custody; COVID-19 A New Factor In Family Law

No Mask – No Child Custody; COVID-19 a New Factor in Family Law

Judges now face a challenge when balancing parental rights and important health concerns.  There are still so many unknowns with this virus that making the right decision is not easy.  Judges expect COVID-19 to come up in child custody and family cases for the foreseeable future.

For example, you might have one parent who is more casual about the risk and the other who is hyper-vigilant.  Judges will be expected to resolve their issues.  The reopening of schools will likely increase the number of cases filed.

If your co-parent is not insisting that your child wear a mask, you certainly have a right to express concern about your child’s safely.  However, there are some things to consider before you run to court.

  1. Communicate.  Communicate.  A judge will likely want to see that you tried to resolve the issue before filing any motion or application.  It is important to document these communications as best you can so that you can present a persuasive argument to the Court.
  2. Best Interests of the Child. This is the gold standard for judges when deciding parenting time and/or decision-making authority.  When making decisions regarding your child, there will be many times when only your child is the winner – meaning you and your ex-partner collectively lose.  There will be times when you and your child are the winners.  There will be times when your ex-partner and your child are the winners.  That is co-parenting.  That is setting aside your interests in favor of your child.  It is also setting aside any bitterness or animosity you may still harbor toward your ex-partner in favor of your child.

Keep in mind that in many family court cases, the issue, or the fight, if you will, is not about the particular problem, which in this specific case is mask-wearing.  It’s about control.  When parties divorce or cease residing together as a family unit, each person loses some control over the other party and over raising the child.  In a setting where there is a loss of control in many aspects of life, mask refusal may be the one area where one parent can regain perceived control – and also not be portrayed as the “task-master” parent.

Before you open the lines of communication, check yourself.  Ask yourself if you are willing to empathize with the other person.  Shaming someone about their position might make them dig their heels in even more. Research shows that if people feel “self-affirmed” they are more likely to accept new information.

Establish a common identity – which, if you’re having this discussion with your ex-partner, you already have one – your child.  Frame the conversation around keeping your child safe, which in turn keeps each of your respective extended families safe.

You’ve done all of the above.  You’ve listened.  You’ve empathized.  You’ve framed the conversation and found a common thread.  Now what?  Repeat and repeat.  To sway someone, especially someone you are tied to for the rest of your life, you must put in the emotional work, which is never easy and takes time.  There is no real shortcut.

In the end, we can all agree that none of us like wearing masks, especially our children.  But it’s common sense that to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we, including our children, must wear masks.  Do your best to sway your co-parent in the hope that you can avoid litigation, but keep in mind that the judges are already facing and deciding this very issue.

New York Child Custody Lawyer

In the face of COVID-19 you may find yourself facing child custody issues.  If you do, you will want an experienced child custody lawyer on your team.  The Mandel Law Firm can help. Get in touch today to schedule your consultation.

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