Dealing with Anxiety in Custody and Visitation Situations

Posted on May 15, 2020 by Katie Carter

It’s a common refrain: my child’s father just doesn’t do things that I believe are critical to protect my children’s safety when they’re in his care.

With coronavirus, it’s even worse. We’re all feeling a little extra anxious; the world feels like such an uncertain place. It’s crazy to think that just, like, two months ago, everything was “normal”, whatever that means. Now, with the governor’s stay at home order and the Supreme Court’s order closing the courts for yet another 21 day period, it’s hard to imagine when things will ever feel normal again.
Schools are closed, we’re not eating out (unless it’s takeout or delivery), and even things like haircuts are verboten. The essentials that we used to just expect are suddenly feeling like things of the past. Media coverage has everyone scared, too. With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, some governors talking about opening up states, and scary numbers about the cost of every possible decision (from reopening to developing herd immunity to the costs of starvation associated with continued government closures and unemployment) on human life and general wellbeing, things feel, well…apocalyptic?

If you’re feeling the strain, particularly if you or your child’s father has been furloughed or are severing in a (dangerous) but essential capacity, well, then, you’re only human. This is a crazy situation. It’s completely unprecedented. And it’s no wonder it’s affecting our overall mental health and our every day decisions.

You hear about how going through major events, like the Great Depression, shaped our grandparents lives. This time, it’s us – and I think it’s completely safe to say we’ll feel the reverberations in our society for years and years to come. Few, if any, of us will come out of this unscathed. I definitely feel like I’ve been changed from the experience, and it’s no wonder.

Also, in Virginia at least, it feels like there’s no real end in sight.

If it’s affecting you on a personal level, you’re not alone. If it’s making you react in ways that you might not previously have reacted, it’s probably not all that surprising.

I’ve heard more and more stories lately from women saying they’re not allowing visitation for some reasons that, in the days before the pandemic, wouldn’t have worked at all. I think it’s clear that our anxiety is getting the better of us – but that doesn’t mean that your fears are unfounded, or that you necessarily have to give up your children to your child’s father when you have sincere, legitimate concerns for their safety and well being.

It also doesn’t mean you can just withhold your children from visitation, either! It’s a fine line to walk between protecting them (and yourself!) from whatever your child’s father has exposed himself to, and unreasonably denying visitation.

Will the courts be understanding? It’s so hard to say. And it’s so hard to advise clients on exactly what to do when we more often than not can’t even get into court at all! I’m inclined to think that judges will at least sort of understand; there’s a lot of fear here, and a lot of unknowns. We’re all doing the best we can, but it’s virtually impossible to take NO risks at all. After all, we’ve all got to get groceries, right?

Ultimately, I think decisions will be made on a case by case basis. They’ll look at the decisions you made, the accommodations you offered, the jobs that you’re both doing, and so on.

Be prepared, though, to make up visitation later, if you withhold it now. Do what you can to promote both parents involvement, even if you’re not comfortable allowing in-home visitation.

Definitely talk to an attorney, too! We can help you gauge whether your reaction is a reasonable one. Not that you necessarily care – or, at least, not that you think you care – but it will be important to make decisions now that don’t open you up to criticism (or, potentially, a change in custody!) later on.

If you’re experiencing overwhelming anxiety, you’re not alone. Maybe talk to your doctor or a therapist, too, to get help with some of the things you’re feeling. It’s not unreasonable or unusual, especially in difficult times like these, and we can all use all the help we can get!

For more information, or to talk to someone one on one about your concerns, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.