As a parent, you may be concerned about protecting your children from COVID-19. For divorced parents, there’s an added stress of coordinating precautionary measures with the other parent. In these tumultuous times, divorced parents might have a lot of questions, especially about what to do with current custody orders. Family law attorney Jessica Leischner says “nothing that has been issued affects any current order. So if you have a custodial schedule, follow the order.”

Leischner helps answer your urgent questions on coronavirus and child custody issues in Virginia: 

Do you switch to the summer custody schedule or keep the school custody schedule?

Virginia has officially said schools are closed for the school year. The question now becomes, do you follow the summer schedule or keep the school year schedule until the official end date? “That is going to depend on the order that comes out from the school system and any other emergency orders put in place,” says Leischner. The Stay At Home Order, issued by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on March 30, specifically permits leaving the house to comply with a custody or visitation order. 

If courts are closed except for emergencies, what is considered as an emergency?

If the other parent refuses to follow a custody order, this could be considered an emergency. For the most part, it will depend on the judge. Each judge is given some discretion to be able to decide what is an emergency and it will depend on the circumstances.

What if a parent or child is immunocompromised?

“Increase communication and be honest with the other parent about what’s going on with your health and the child’s health,” says Leischner. If you can’t make decisions with the best interests of the child together, default to the current custody order. 

Rebecca gives the following tips on how to handle custody and visitation issues during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Constant Communication: “Parents, keep each other informed to ensure the best interest for the child.” says Leischner. Now is not the time to try and get a leg up in the custody case.
  • Get Everything in Writing: Leischner explains if you are making any agreements or having any disagreement, reduce it to writing. If you are talking on the phone, after the call, send an email with the date of the conversation, the topics discussed and the viewpoints of both parties. If you keep everything in writing, there will be no misunderstandings about any discussion with the other parent. 
  • If You Need to File, File Now: Even if your case is not an emergency, and the court won’t hear your case, this doesn’t prevent you from filing.“The court is accepting filings, so if something comes up and you want to file, I recommend to file now,” says Leischner. There may be a backlog of cases when the court opens up and filing now gets you in line to be heard as soon as possible. 

If you have any questions about child custody issues during this pandemic, please contact Jessica Leischner at

About the Author

This is a photo of Jessica Leischner. She is a family law attorney at Old Town Lawyers.

Jessica L. Leischner

Jessica L. Leischner is partner with Friedman, Grimes, Meinken & Leischner PLLC. As an accomplished family law attorney, litigator and mediator serving Northern Virginia, Ms. Leischner represents clients in Fairfax County, Alexandria City, Arlington County, Loudoun County, Stafford County, and Prince William County. Ms. Leischner’s practice is exclusively in the area of family law, including divorce, child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, equitable distribution, settlement agreements, property rights, post-divorce disputes and other family law matters.

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