Pennsylvania Custody Orders and Covid-19
Have you been wondering how the “stay at home” and “shelter in place” state directives impact your physical custody schedule? If so, you are not alone.
Most county courts in Pennsylvania have held that the pandemic does not override current custody schedules and whether or not a “stay at home” or a “shelter in place” directive has been put in place in your county, travel for the purpose of transferring custody of a child is permitted. However, one judge in Blair County has held to the literal definition of “stay at home” and “shelter in place” and has frozen all physical custody schedules in that county as of the date the directive was issued. This means, whichever parent was exercising physical custody of the child on the date of the directive, will continue to exercise physical custody, regardless of the parties’ physical custody schedule, until such time as the “stay at home” or “shelter in place” directives have been lifted. Again, this is only one county in Pennsylvania; all other counties are continuing to enforce their custody orders.
Some families with emergency responders or life sustaining work employees, have chosen to “quarantine” themselves from their children in order to keep them healthy and lessen their exposure to COVID-19. This may result in a waiver of all physical custody periods or a decrease in physical custody periods. Please understand that these measures are voluntary and not state mandated. Unless there is a mutual agreement to waive or decrease the physical custody periods of one parent, the other parent cannot use self-help measures to eliminate another parent’s custodial rights due to a perceived COVID-19 exposure fear. To do so may expose the self-help parent to a contempt charge.
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal or medical advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel or medical consultation, and should not be relied on as such.