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Child Custody Exchanges During COVID-19 "Stay At Home" Orders


On March 10, 2020 the Governor of North Carolina declared a state of emergency and Guilford County in conjunction with the municipalities in Guilford County issued a state of emergency declaration on March 13, 2020. Thereafter, effective March 27, 2020, Guilford County amended the state of emergency declaration restricting the movement of individuals within and about the County with certain exceptions. This amendment has become known as the County “Stay At Home” Order (link to the order is below). Effective March 30, 2020, the Governor of North Carolina likewise issued executive orders (no. 121) restricting the movement of individuals within and about the State with certain exceptions. This executive order has become known as the State “Stay At Home Order” (link to the order is below).

Do “stay at home” orders mean that I cannot exchange my child per our custody order or divorce decree?
No. The emergency orders of the Governor as well as Guilford County (and the citys/towns in Guilford County) which restrict movement and direct persons to stay home permits movement and travel outside of the home to exchange children. Therefore, parents should continue to exchange their children pursuant court orders and custody agreements.

If I do not already have a court order or agreement for custody/visitation, how soon can I get into court? If the other party is not following the terms of the order or agreement, how soon can I get into court?
Pursuant to an Order of the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court issued on March 13, 2020, most non-essential, non-emergency court hearings are postponed until mid April. It remains possible that the Chief Justice may extend this postponement beyond mid-April. As a result, unless there is an emergency situation, you will not be able to have a court hearing until after April 15 (which could be extended).

What constitutes a custody emergency that would allow me to immediately get into court?
Generally, a child must be at risk of substantial serious bodily injury, sexual assault, or at substantial risk that the child may be abducted or removed from North Carolina for the purpose of evading the jurisdiction of the courts of North Carolina. There also other limited circumstances when other forms of injunctive relief may be available.

Our team will continue to closely monitor updates from state and local governments. If you have questions or are experiencing difficulty with possession and access, you may contact us to discuss your options. We are available from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM at (336) 274-7898.

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