Family Law FAQ
- Does Covid-19 Change Court Ordered Parenting Time in Tennessee?
- If My Child Gets COVID-19, am I Required to Allow the Other Parent to Exercise Visitation?
- If the Other Parent has COVID-19, am I Required to Bring the Child to the Sick Parent?
- I Need to File Something for Custody on an Emergency Basis, is This Currently Possible?
- Can I File for Divorce or for Child Custody During COVID-19?
A: It may. There may be ambiguity about whether parents must abide by the school schedule if the schools are closed. Thankfully, judges here in Middle Tennessee acted quickly on this issue to minimize potential confusion and have stated that all parents are to follow the school schedule that was published, just as if schools were still in session. Remember that parenting plans can be strictly enforced through the court’s contempt power. Thus, if one parent is wrongfully withholding parenting time, that could be rectified through the filing of a petition for contempt. As a general matter, law enforcement is unlikely to intervene when called about child custody matters and will often inform parents that disputes over child custody are a civil matter and should be handled through the courts.
For those in Davidson County, the Court’s standing Order provides excellent guidance.
Thankfully, the Court specifies that parents are at liberty to agree on alternative schedules as long as the agreement is in writing signed by both parties.
If the parents are unmarried and there is no current court Order, then the Mother is allowed to have all of the parenting time under Tennessee law. In such a case, the Father should File a Petition to Establish paternity if the Father wants to secure court ordered parenting time.
A: No. For those in Davidson County, the Court has explicitly answered this question in the negative. “If the child, parent or an in-home sibling or family member is diagnosed with COVID-19 while the child is in the home, visitation shall be suspended for 14 days following the diagnosis upon presentation to the other parent of a doctor’s note confirming the diagnosis.”
Parents in other counties should check the court website or call the clerk’s office to find the answer to this question for their county.
A: No. In Davidson County, visitation should be suspended for 14 days after you have been informed of the other parent’s illness.
A: Yes. The Tennessee Supreme Court’s administrative order and administrative orders in the county courts have limited some in-person actions related to courts. However, emergency custody actions were specifically mentioned in many of these orders as something that must still occur. Every county in Tennessee should be allowing emergency custody proceedings. The Tennessee Supreme Court allows in person proceedings for this while maintaining social distance, and encourages the use of alternative technology such as video conferences or telephone conferences for proceedings. For more information, you may read the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Order.
A: Yes. The courts remain open for many actions. Filing for a divorce and initiating a Petition to establish Paternity or a similar action is still possible. Our office has recently been able to initiate new lawsuits through electronic filing instead of the usual practice of mailing or bringing the documents to the courthouse. If you are unsure whether you can file something, you should consider consulting with an attorney. If you are unwilling or unable to speak with an attorney, you could call the court clerk’s office and ask for their recommendation on how to file until court operations are no longer limited.