For one Miami emergency room physician, who was told to decide between her job or her daughter, the coronavirus has been a nightmare. That’s because family judges are having to make emergency child custody decisions – sometimes against our first-responders. There’s also some good coronavirus information.
The coronavirus is a global pandemic. State of emergencies have been declared around the country. Currently, there are over 800,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and roughly 47,00 deaths according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
In Miami, an ER doctor had to leave her 5 year old child indefinitely with a man she alleges repeatedly physically beat her during the marriage. Yet, a Miami judge granted the father’s motion to temporarily modify timesharing due to the mother’s heightened exposure to COVID-19 and award her equivalent makeup time when the emergency is lifted.
Due to the mother’s employment as an emergency room physician, this Court is concerned with her exposure to COVID-19 while exercising timesharing with the minor child.
In order to protect the best interests of the minor child, including but not limited to the minor child’s safety and welfare, the Court temporarily suspended her timesharing until further Order of Court. That means the father will exercise 100% timesharing.
The court also ordered that the mother is entitled to equivalent make up timesharing for each day lost as a result of this temporary suspension of timesharing, and to daily Skype, FaceTime, and/or telephonic communication with the minor child.
Florida Child Custody
I’ve written about child custody before – especially as it relates to spanking and punishment. Florida does not use the term “custody” anymore, we have the parenting plan concept. For purposes of establishing a parenting plan, the best interest of the child is the primary consideration.
The best interests of the child are determined by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including the mental and physical health of the parents. What about emergencies?
Florida courts have long recognized that there can be extraordinary circumstances, and trial courts have to enter emergency temporary orders modifying custody of a child. Sometimes the court has to do so without even giving prior notice to the other side.
However, such an order requires a true emergency situation, such as where a child is threatened with physical harm or is about to be improperly removed from the state.
But trial courts have to make every reasonable effort to allow both parties to be heard before issuing an emergency modification order. When prior notice isn’t possible, an opportunity to be heard should be made as soon thereafter as possible.
If an order doesn’t make such a showing they are consistently overturned unless there is evidence of a sufficient emergency.
The Good Doctor
Back in Miami, the ER doctor’s lawyers argued that if the Court’s ruling stands, the doctor would not be able to see her child until May 31st, when the Courts may reopen and leave this child for 60 consecutive days with the father without any access to the mother.
As the mother argued:
Is she to presume that she will not see her child for an unknown period beyond May 31st? How could this possibly be in the best interest of the minor child? Is it the stance of the Family Court that any medical professional who may come into contact with Covid-19 patients should have their timesharing suspended indefinitely?
An extraordinary writ was filed with the Third District Court of appeal, and temporarily, the doctor will continue to split custody time with her ex-husband after an appeals court ruled in favor of her motion to stay the order while the appellate court continues to decide on the judge’s initial order.
Good Coronavirus Information
While there is no game plan, here’s some information on when we can return to work:
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently predicted a gradual reopening of parts of the country, perhaps starting as soon as May 2020. However, that depends on the virus and mitigation efforts.
- Reopening the economy will happen gradually, with ongoing monitoring for renewed outbreaks.
- In the coming weeks, a drop in COVID-19 cases is expected across the US.
- Once that happens, public health experts and national, state, and local leaders will likely give the go-ahead for employers across many industries to gradually reopen, and employees will return to work.
The NBC Miami article is here.