Should we award custody to the parent who is a lower risk for COVID-19?
Is it reasonable to give custody to the parent who is a lower health risk to the child during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic?
It is reasonable only if the “lower risk” is low enough to necessitate: 1) infringing the right of the children to the care and companionship of their other parent and 2) infringing the right of the parent to exercise his/her parental rights.
If one of you is a frontline emergency room doctor or nurse whose sole job right now is admitting people who are known to be infected with the Coronavirus to the hospital for treatment, while the other is a stay at home parent or a parent who works from home and thus has minimal contact with others, then in that situation it would make sense to award temporary custody of the children to the stay at home parent until the COVID-19 crisis passes.
But consider this: Should health care worker parents be cut off from kids during COVID-19? If a parent works in a hospital then he or she is going to be exposed to diseases of all kinds. It’s not as though once COVID-19 runs its course that this parent is never going to be exposed to other contagious, possibly even deadly, diseases. We don’t consider a parent who is a doctor or nurse inherently “unfit” as a parent just because he or she has a dangerous or potentially dangerous job. Can you imagine what would happen if the law provided that parents with dangerous jobs can’t exercise custody or parent-time of their kids?
It would also make sense for the parent who has been temporarily deprived of physical contact with the kids to be provided with ample and meaningful opportunities for the parent and children to interact by telephone and internet video conference. And it’s only fair that the deprived parent receive compensatory or make-up time with the kids once the COVID-19 crisis passes.
Now let’s examine a different job scenario. If one of you is a gas meter reader and the other is a stay at home parent or a parent who works from home, then neither one of you is at high risk of contracting the Coronavirus. Yes, the meter reader will come in contact with a few more people in the course of his/her work day, but not in close contact and not in a way that is likely to risk contracting the virus. So, while the meter reader’s risk is slightly higher than stay-at-home’s risk, both parents are low risk and there is no reason for the kids to be withheld from one parent because of a negligible, slightly higher risk.
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