What should Vermont parents know if they want to modify a custody or visitation order because they want to protect children from exposure to COVID-19?
It’s important to know:
1. If you have a court order, you must follow the visitation order or risk being found in contempt of the court order.
2. We cannot advise at this time that a fear of COVID-19 exposure is good cause to deny court-ordered visits.
3. If parents agree on a change of parent child contact or parental rights and responsibilities, they must check their current order or agreement to see if they can amend visitation by agreement of the parties. If this is not in the order or agreement, to be in compliance with a court order the parents should file to amend the order/agreement by filing a joint motion called an Agreement on Parental Rights and Responsibilities, Parent Child Contact and Provisions Relating to Children. File it with the court and include the specific terms and duration of the modification.
4. If parents don't agree, a parent may file a Motion to Modify Parental Rights and Responsibilities. However, the courts may schedule these hearings at a later, uncertain date. The result of filing a motion due to COVID-19 is not clear because this is a brand new issue that has not been discussed and decided by the courts in Vermont.