COVID-19 pandemic & the state of emergency and how they affect family relationships

With the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic on March 11, 2020 and with the Romanian authorities declaring a state of emergency on March 16, 2020, including all subsequent regulations, there is no doubt that family relationships will also be affected by this disease.

 Unfortunately, family relationships were pretty much ignored by the authorities when drafting the military ordinances that have progressively limited the freedom of movement and the right to leave one’s house or residence. Therefore, the opinions presented herein are a personal interpretation of the present situation, however with direct reference to all laws that apply.

1. Self-isolation and orders of protection

Petitions for orders of protection continue to be on the docket of the court, being classified as urgent matters. The problem is when the aggressor, against whom an order of protection was issued ordering the aggressor to keep away from his/her family or the victim, must self-isolate for 14 days.

In my opinion, if the aggressor does not have any alternative housing options, the public local authorities should provide the aggressor with a place to self-isolate, as far as possible from the house of the victim, but also from other individuals, in order to avoid and limit as much as possible the spread of the virus. Otherwise, the aggressor would not be able to observe the obligations set forth in the order of protection.

2. Rights of non-resident parents to parenting time with their minor children (visitation schedule)

Whereas individuals are only allowed to leave the house for specific reasons, how will parents be able to benefit of their right to parenting time.

Obviously, one of the options, if parents agree, is for the non-resident parent not to visit or host the child during this period, having the possibility to claim more visitation hours or days afterwards – e.g. summer holiday. In this case, for the entire period of this special situation, the parent and the child shall keep in touch through any modern communication means, such as voice or video calls.

In case parents don’t agree, the question is whether this visitation schedule could or should be suspended. In my opinion, we can talk about a rightful suspension only if the non-resident parent is quarantined or self-isolated at home. Otherwise, there is no legal ground for the suspension of the visitation schedule, except when the resident parent addresses the family court and submits a request in this regard.

Another aspect that needs to be considered is which of the legal grounds set forth in the Military Ordinance no. 3/2020 can be used by a parent who has to leave the house to pick the child up at the beginning of the visitation schedule and to return the child when required. In my opinion, as long as there are no official clarifications, the legal ground would be article (1) paragraph (1) letter (d) of the Military Ordinance no. 3 from March 24, 2020 which refers to the right to leave the residence/household for justified grounds such as caring/accompanying a minor child.

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