As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and our essential healthcare workers continue to treat and care for patients, one doctor has found herself caught between her professional life and personal life – and served with an emergency court order that’s severed ties between her and her four-year-old daughter.
Dr. Theresa Greene, an emergency room physician in Miami, has had shared custody of her daughter since her divorce from her husband Eric two years ago. However, Mr. Greene and his attorney filed for an emergency child custody order, asking for a temporary full custody order to limit the child’s risk of exposure to coronavirus. Florida Circuit Court Judge Bernard Shapiro ruled in his favor, stating, “The Court does not enter this Order lightly but given the pandemic in Florida and the recent increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Court finds in order to insulate and protect the best interests and health of the minor child, this Order must be entered on a temporary basis.”
Dr. Greene plans to appeal the decision, calling it discriminatory against divorced parents, adding, “We have good evidence that has really made me feel better in what I am doing, in sticking by that shows that children are minimally affected by the disease and that health care workers who use proper precautions are not at an increased risk than the general population of contracting the virus.”
Her attorney added, “We believe that the decision sets out a very dangerous precedent that could have a major impact on healthcare providers around the country who are risking their own lives while fighting to save others.”
The Greene’s custody agreement, if not changed in appeal, will be re-visited when the pandemic is over.
Child custody, North Carolina, and COVID-19
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley of the North Carolina Supreme Court has postponed all non-emergency, non-essential court hearings until at least June 1, 2020. This means that, unless you have an emergency order, you cannot have a court hearing until Justice Beasley’s declaration expires.
What constitutes an emergency during this time? Judges will hear family court cases that require emergency relief, which includes emergency custody matters, temporary restraining orders, and temporary no contact orders.
In a recent directive, Justice Beasley also approved a set of guidelines for families dealing with custody and visitation orders. These guidelines include:
- COVID-19 is not a reason to deny parenting time. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, parents are considered fit to care for their children, following local and state health directives.
- If parenting time is ordered to be supervised and a supervisor cannot be available in person, videoconferencing or telephone should be used instead.
- If parenting time is ordered to be in a public place, follow local rules regarding social distancing. If not possible, videoconferencing technology should be used instead.
- While schools are closed, custody and vacation schedules should continue as if they are open according to your local school district.
- If a parent or household member is diagnosed with coronavirus, the other parent must be notified as soon as possible. All parties must work together with their healthcare provider to ensure the best interest of the child(ren).
- Clients and attorneys should have a “pandemic plan” in place for unforeseen health or travel problems. We can help you design one.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your custody agreement or parenting plan. The attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC are here to help ease your stress during these tough times. Call us in Charlotte, Boone, or Weddington at 704-321-0031, or visit our contact page, and schedule your consultation today.