The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many parents to reconsider their child custody arrangements, particularly in cases where a custodial parent’s job may put a child at risk. Understanding what the IL law requires and allows in changing custody arrangements will help parents decide if it’s time to reach out to a child custody attorney to start the process of changing the child custody arrangements.
What Illinois Law Says About Changing Child Custody Orders
In normal circumstances, in order for a parent to request a child custody order or parenting plan modification, two years must have passed between the last order and the request for a new one. In addition, there must be a change of circumstances that warrants the change. The law specifically states the requirement for a “material and substantial change in circumstances.” This can be something in the child’s life or their parents’ life. Finally, the change must be in the best interests of the child, something a child custody attorney can help the parent decide.
Changing a Custody Order Early in an Emergency
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique situations for families in Illinois. Sometimes, the pandemic and resulting health or economic problems cause circumstances that may warrant a change before the two years are up.
Changing a custody order early is more difficult, but not impossible. The parent requesting the change must prove to the courts, with the help of a child custody lawyer, that the child is in danger due to the current custody arrangement. COVID-19, because it is an unusual circumstance, may create such an emergency situation.
Temporary Changes to the Custody Arrangement
In situations like the COVID-19 outbreak, temporary changes to the child custody arrangement are possible. For example, a parent concerned about their child being exposed to the virus when living with a front line worker, like a doctor or nurse. The concerned parent may request that they get temporary physical custody, and deny the medical professional visitation, to protect the child.
This has happened in several states, and the results have been mixed. The burden in these scenarios lies on the parent requesting the change. They must prove that the child is at high risk in the current living arrangement. The courts will focus their decision on what is in the child’s best interests while protecting custody and visitation arrangements whenever it is safe to do so.