COVID-19 is terrifying a lot of Virginians, and rightly so. Some hunker down, adopting a bunker mentality that preserves the home as a virus-free safe zone. Some seek to escape, by packing the kids in the family car and heading off to surrounding states. Some seek to escape their marriage at the same time.
COVID-19 Ground Conditions
As of August 16, 2020 (the latest data set available), the Virginia Department of Health reports 937 cases of COVID-19 reported, with 11 deaths reported on August 15. The seven-day moving average for deaths by date reported has trended downward from an August 6 average of 22.6 to an August 16 average of 7.9. No death is good news, but the declining fatality numbers are cause for hope.
Virginia’s women and mothers can take little comfort in COVID-19 ground conditions in surrounding states. This disease is called a pandemic because it reaches every state and every country, and it crosses every border.
- Maryland showed 518 new cases for August 16, with 26 deaths in four days.
- North Carolina showed 1,246 cases reported for August 16, with 28 deaths reported in four days.
- Tennessee reported 1,961 new cases for August 16 and 48 deaths
- Kentucky reported 390 new cases for August 16 and three deaths
- West Virginia reported 130 new cases for August 15 and four deaths
COVID-19 Travel Advisories
Many states are issuing travel advisories, which should discourage conscientious parents (Dads and Moms) from trying to drive the kids out of state. Unfortunately the grass is not greener, and the COVID-19 cases are not fewer in surrounding states. No U.S. citizens can legally enter Canada, and Mexico will keep its border closed to Americans until at least September 21.
Travel advisories do not prohibit a drive into Kentucky, for example, but you are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. This quarantining is not legally required in every state, but it is a sensible precaution if you choose to defy logic and the odds by taking your kids and leaving Virginia.
A parent who, out of fear or panic, thinks that a drive to West Virginia will somehow inoculate her, and her children, from COVID-19 is wrong. She could also get herself into a legal nightmare. If you as a Virginia man are in the middle of divorce proceedings, she has no legal right to take your children out of the state. She certainly cannot do such a terrible thing without your permission.
Suppose, though, you do not know you are even getting a divorce. You go to work Monday morning, face mask and all, and get home to a note saying she has taken the kids to Maryland and is filing for divorce.
You may have unfortunately stumbled into a contested divorce. You should immediately call a supportive, knowledgeable family law firm familiar with contested divorce. You must fight so that she must return to Virginia to untangle the legal knot she created.
Smarter, Better, Faster
Nobody wants to be blindsided by a divorce. If you even think that your wife is contemplating a drastic, ill-advised, and dangerous stunt like leaving Virginia with your children, communicate. Communicate by text, email, kitchen table chat, or handwritten letter. Show her this article. Give your own travel advisory:
Leaving the state with the kids is a terrible, risky choice. Better is to stay here, figure out what we can do to get through this, and work together to get you out of this marriage if that is what you truly want.
The better, smarter, faster, and less expensive alternative to a contested divorce is a separation formalized with a property settlement agreement followed by an uncontested, no-fault divorce.
If you can communicate that to your wife, you may be able to put up a roadblock to her urge to flee the state. You can offer her some hardball reasons, too, for not messing with your kid
- Her move to flee the state with your children makes her look like a bad parent, one likely to not gain even partial custody of the kids in divorce
- The children’s best interest has to be paramount, both psychologically and legally under Code of Virginia § 20-124.3, so her selfish exit strategy will boomerang back on her
- An uncontested divorce is far less expensive for her than a contested, brutal, protracted divorce
Every Virginia man’s situation is unique. At The Firm For Men, we have experience in all aspects of Virginia family law and stand ready to help you. Contact us today, or telephone our Virginia Beach offices at (757) 383-9184, so that we can preserve your rights, safeguard your parent-child relationship, and work in the best interests of your child.