Social Distancing and Parenting Plans in New Hampshire

The coronavirus pandemic has led to significant issues regarding parenting plans and social distancing. New Hampshire is currently under a shutdown order requiring people to stay at home unless they meet certain exceptions. The requirements of social distancing are putting pressure on parents who co-parent through parenting plans.

What happens when one parent is in health care and exposed to the coronavirus? What happens when co-parents cannot exchange their children due to New Hampshire’s shut-down order? These are all issues that are leading New Hampshire families to second guess their visitation and co-parenting agreements as the stay-at-home order has been extended beyond May 4.

Petitions Seeking Emergency Relief are on the Rise

New Hampshire family court judges are reporting that they have seen an increase in petitions seeking emergency relief to amend child support agreements and parenting plans. According to the Circuit Court Administrative Judge David King, North Carolina courts are denying a majority of the petitions because they do not meet the required legal threshold.

Succeeding in a petition for emergency relief is difficult, especially with courts not operating at full capacity. Parents need to meet a narrow legal standard before a court will accept their petition. Petitioners who want to change parenting plans must show that the child would likely suffer irreparable harm unless a judge grants an emergency petition prior to a hearing.

Reasons for Seeking Emergency Relief Due to Coronavirus

Many of the parents who are seeking emergency relief are worried that the other co-parent does not have the necessary protection to protect their child from exposure to coronavirus. For example, if one parent is a nurse in an emergency room, the other parent might petition the court for full temporary custody to avoid their child becoming exposed to coronavirus.

Parents who are non-residential or non-custodial have been filing motions for contempt. In these motions, parents contend that the other parent is denying them their scheduled time with their children according to their parenting plan.

Many custodial parents are asking to suspend visitation with the other co-parent due to coronavirus. Parents must prove with concrete examples that the other parent’s actions are putting their child in an immediate risk in order to succeed in their petitions. New Hampshire’s supervised visitation centers are also considering requiring online parental visits rather than in-person visits to combat the spread of coronavirus.