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What do I do if I am having custody problems involving COVID-19?

6/26/2020

Given COVID-19 crisis, there has been a recent rise in what are called emergency motions called Orders to Show Cause (OTSC), where one parent may live near New York, for example, or is a hospital worker and the other parent is not. One of the parents may refuse to allow the hospital worker parent to see their child because they fear infection from the other parent.

The first place to look is your divorce agreement, if your child arose from a marriage and you are now divorced. If there exist no previous court orders regarding custody, the standard the courts use is potential harm to the child. If there is material disagreement between the parents as to possible harm to the child, one party should file an emergency application (OTSC), which is typically heard the day it is filed on a temporary basis. Within a short time of the emergency hearing, the Court will order a full hearing from both parties and their attorneys. OTSC applications are most common if one parent is leaving the country or the state permanently with a child without notice, then an emergency motion must be filed to prevent the relocating parent from taking the child or to bring the child back to New Jersey.

The standard for an emergency hearing is a case called Crowe v. DeGoia, which states that the moving party must show there will be irreparable harm to the child if the Court does not act.

State of New Jersey Emergent Child Custody has issued a website to also assist people in need of help:
https://covid19.nj.gov/faqs/nj-information/general-public/what-can-i-do-if-im-having-child-custody-issues

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