Your Visitation Rights Could Be Restricted if You Refuse to Wear a Mask
The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is nowhere in sight, as thousands of new coronavirus cases are reported across the United States every single day. People across the nation still have to rely on face masks, social distancing, and other preventative measures to keep them and their families safe during these times of uncertainty.
Since the pandemic began in early 2020, COVID-19 has become a new prominent factor in family law cases. Some divorced parents are trying to interfere with child visitation, while others are withholding access to their children over fears of infection. But can you lose custody or have your visitation rights restricted for merely refusing to wear a mask?
Mother’s Visitation Rights Restricted Because She’s an ‘Anti-Mask Person’
A recent ruling by a judge in Fort Lauderdale shows that COVID-19 has become a new factor in family law cases. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen won’t let a mother see her son for one reason: she does not want to wear a mask. According to the court filing, the woman’s son has asthma, which puts him at a greater risk of contracting coronavirus.
The judge called the woman an “anti-mask person” and criticized her for her “audacity” to brag about not wearing a mask during the pandemic on Facebook. The judge said he did not trust the woman to wear a mask when visiting her son, which is why he ordered supervised visitation. Also, the judge refused to consider a long-distance parenting plan until the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 is a New Factor in Family Law Cases in Florida
The ruling illustrates that Florida judges consider COVID-19 and health risks of the virus in family law matters, and it makes sense why. Under the Florida Statutes Section 61.13, custody and timesharing decisions must be based on the best interests of the child. And since COVID-19 presents a serious health risk to children, it is not surprising why judges in family courts do not ignore the possible threat associated with the deadly virus.
It is not the first controversial decision by a family court since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, an emergency room doctor who treated coronavirus patients lost custody of her 4-year-old daughter, but an appeals court later overturned the decision.
Can a Parent Withhold Child Visitation Over Fears of Infection?
As long as you make decisions to protect the best interest of your children, you can withhold child visitation whenever you feel that your children are likely to suffer harm. However, the mere fear of infection may not be enough to withhold the other parent’s access to your child unless you have substantial evidence to prove that their behavior could endanger your child.
If you feel that your child is at greater risk to contract COVID-19 when spending time with your former spouse, consult with an Orlando child custody attorney to discuss your legal options. Speak with our results-driven and knowledgeable family lawyer at the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. Call at 407-521-7171 for a consultation.