New Emergency Standing Order Regarding Tennessee Custody Orders and Parenting Plans

Parents in Montgomery or Robertson County who are co-parenting under a court-ordered parenting plan or custody order: School closures do not change your ordinary visitation schedule, subject to limited COVID-19-related exceptions. The Emergency Standing Order is effective as of 03/20/2020 throughout Tennessee's 19th Judicial District.

COVID-19 Closures Do Not Affect the Existing Parenting Schedule

As schools remain closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, one issue has arisen for parents co-parenting under a parenting plan or custody order: How do these closures affect parenting plans that, for example, defines a parent's Spring Break visitation as extending until "day before school resumes"? These types of ambiguities--and the stress and conflict they can generate--has prompted Tennessee's 19th Judicial District, which encompasses Montgomery and Robertson Counties, to issue a standing order with the following clarifications:

  • A school's closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect visitation under a parenting plan or custody order.
  • Any person currently exercising visitation/physical custody who wouldn't be if schools were open should immediately return the child to the other parent and begin following the ordinary visitation schedule.

Exceptions to the Emergency Standing Order

Given the unprecedented measures currently being taken in light of the rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic, the Emergency Standing Order creates the following exceptions to strict adherence to the parenting plan and school schedule:

  • If either parent's state or city is under a government-mandated lockdown, and the child is with that parent at the time the lockdown goes into effect. In such a case, exchanges will be suspended until the end of the lockdown.
  • If the child, parent, or an in-home sibling or family member is diagnosed with COVID-19 while the child is in the home. In such a case, visitation shall be suspended for 14 days following the diagnosis upon presentation to the other parent of a doctor's note confirming the diagnosis.

Consequences for Failing to Follow the Emergency Standing Order

In an effort to stem the potential tide of litigation and conflict that may follow from uncertainty over how to apply Tennessee parenting plans and custody orders in this stressful and uncertain time, the 19th Judicial District's Emergency Standing Order contains a stern warning for potential violators:

Failure to obey a Court Order for visitation of or access to a child ... may be punishable by confinement in jail for up to 10 days, a fine of up to $50.00 for each violation, and a monetary judgment for payment of attorney's fees and court costs.

Questions or Concerns? Contact Us Today!

Our experienced child custody and visitation attorneys routinely handle custody, visitation, and child support matters throughout Middle Tennessee, including in Montgomery and Robertson Counties. We can answer any questions you might have about how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect your rights and responsibilities under an existing Tennessee parenting plan or child custody order. Contact us today by calling (931) 398-5308.

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