Child Visitation Rights During Shelter at Home in Santa Barbara County

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

As a result of Governor Newsom’s executive orders issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court system has experienced a multitude of changes and as a result imposed some limited restrictions and courtroom closures. Honorable Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California and Chair of the Judicial Council, and Honorable Judge Michael J. Carrozzo, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Presiding Judge, have issued orders in response to the executive orders and have taken corresponding preventative measures to help slow the spread of the virus.

Orders issued by Honorable Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye on March 27, 2020, declared that from March 30, 2020, to and including April 23, 2020, shall be deemed court holidays for the purposes of computing the time for filing papers. As a result of these orders, all hearings previously set to occur during that time frame will be continued to a date chosen by the court. These closures will cause delays in matters set to be heard both during that time and after, however, most attorneys are still working during the court closures and are working together to reach resolutions to many custody and visitation disputes as they arise. Emergency or ex parte hearings may be held for matters which are truly an emergency—there must be a true, immediate risk to one’s life or safety. [The full orders issued on March 27th can be read here, subsequent orders can be found here and here.]

Santa Barbara County’s family law judges reviewed the issues family law attorneys presented to them regarding custody and visitation disputes resulting and arising as a result of the pandemic, including addressing what effect, if any, school closures might have on the parenting timeshare schedule. On April 7th, Honorable Michael J. Carrozzo issued county-wide family law orders and guidelines to help alleviate many of these issues and concerns.

Most notable of Judge Carrozzo's orders are the following:

1. School closures for public health purposes will not be considered an extension of any break or vacation holiday period or weekend.

2. Unless otherwise ordered, COVID-19 is not a reason to deny parenting time. Parents are encouraged to follow state and local directives regarding social distancing and sanitation-related measures, such as frequent hand washing.

3. Governor Newsom issued executive orders that restrict air travel except for essential activities. For parenting time that requires travel, unless modified by anther executive order or order of the court, parties should make other arrangements for contact, such as driving the children or scheduling video or phone visits.

4. Unless restricted by a restraining order, parents are encouraged to communicate with each other about the children and about the precautions they are taking to limit their exposure and the exposure of the children to COVID-19.

5. A parent cannot deny parenting time based on the other parent’s unwillingness to discuss their precautionary and preventative measures taken to reduce exposure to COVID-19, or the belief that the other parent’s precautions are insufficient.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court has compiled a comprehensive “FAQ” page regarding the courts and COVID-19. It addresses questions regarding temporary orders, court closures, and e-filing documents. Check the court’s website for new updates as the COVID-19 matter develops.

Amidst the court closure, Family Court Services Mediation is still open, and mediation is being conducted telephonically. For mediation in Santa Barbara, please call (805) 882-4660, and for mediation in Santa Maria, please call (805) 614-6442. Prior to mediation, you must complete the PEACE course, which is offered online. Please visit the court’s website to learn more about mediation.

Although our physical office is closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the attorneys and staff at Law Office of Channe G. Coles are working hard and are here to answer your questions and address any issues you may have. If you have any questions or concerns about your child custody and visitation orders during these trying times, please call our office at (805) 617-4618 or contact us online today to schedule your free consultation.

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