What Social Distancing and Stay at Home Orders Mean for Visitation

The terms “social distancing,” “shelter in place,” and “stay at home” have been used since the COVID-19 pandemic started back in March. These terms have been used interchangeably, but each has a slightly different meaning. The pandemic has brought its own string of problems, but for families that are co-parenting it has brought more questions. Many families have had to temporarily change their visitation agreements because of these different orders, and that can be confusing. This is what these orders mean for you and your family regarding visitation.

Social Distancing

Social distancing, or physical distancing, is the simplest order to understand. When someone is socially distant they are keeping a distance of at least 6 feet between themselves and other people who are not in their household. A social distancing order does not directly affect a custody or visitation agreement. The court systems have stated that denying visitation at this time is not allowed, unless both parents come to an agreement. This means that one parent cannot withhold visitation; it has to be a mutual agreement.

Shelter in Place

A shelter in place order means that people should stay inside, unless they are doing essential travel, or essential activities. Shelter in place orders ask residents to stay home, but is not a reason to deny visitation, as visitation travel can be considered an essential activity. Shelter in place orders should not affect visitation, and similar to social distancing orders both parents would have to agree to visitation modifications under a shelter in place order.

Stay at Home

A stay at home order is another term to say shelter in place. Stay at home orders mean that a person can only leave their house for essential travel or essential activities. Again, a stay at home order is not a reason to withhold visitation. Visitation is an essential activity, and only can be adjusted if both parents agree to change the visitation agreement.

Contact a Family Attorney Today

If your co-parent is withholding visitation, or trying to withhold visitation, due to a social distancing, shelter in place, or stay at home orders, consider seeking legal representation. These orders should not be the basis for withholding visitation, and one of our experienced family law attorneys could help you determine a course of action and walk you through your options.