Many of you are familiar with the Old Testament story of King Solomon. Two women were claiming to be the mother of the same child. King Solomon was called to decide the issue. He announced that he would cut the baby in half and each woman would receive one-half. The imposter mother consented to this result. The real mother begged that the sword be put away and that the child be given to the other woman to spare the child’s life. Having discerned the women’s true feelings towards the child, the real mother kept her child. As you can imagine, this reference comes up a lot in the practice of family law and we reference it a lot with wise judges who are using the parties’ own actions and deeds to determine who sincerely and genuinely cares about a child’s best interests.
I wrote early this weke about our firm’s experience in handling the sorts of crises we are currently experiencing with this coronavirus pandemic and how they impact things like visitation schedules. We are continuing to see this play out in our work this week and likely for the next few weeks.
The courthouses in Georgia are under a state-wide judicial emergency and closed except for essential functions. With the exception of family violence, this means that getting heard on a family law case is all but impossible. That’s pretty well-known, both with the parents who are wanting to make good decisions and those who are seeking to use this crisis for their own advantage.
The issue that keeps coming up is whether the child has to go for visitation. In many situations, there is no immediate harm or reason to not continue with visitation schedules in Georgia. The child can follow the curent guidelines for social distancing and the like regardless of which parent’s home she is staying in. However, in some situations, particularly those that require long-distance interstate travel, the story is quite different. Even more so for international exchanges as borders are now closing daily.
At some point, the courthouses will resume normal function and the Judges will be looking at how the parents handled the exchange of their child during this crisis – were they willing to put the child’s health at grave risk or were they willing to spare the child and leave her with the other parent in exchange for some “make up” time later? Which decision served the best interest of the child? Which decision served the self-interest of the other parent?
We are open (remotely) and available to help you navigate these situations as they arise. The lines, particularly in times of crisis, are sometimes blurred on when the child’s best interest and a parent’s self-interest diverge. Let us help you navigate those lines.