Child custody, visitation not altered by Shelter-In-Place Order

Child custody and visitation arrangements are not superceded or altered by Gov. Kemp's March 2 Shelter-In-Place Executive Order; Governor grants himself authorization to make future changes to Order by way of “social media” announcement.


An Executive Order issued on March 3 by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp clarified that any judicial order, such as those regarding family law matters such as custodial and visitation arrangements, is not altered by the Shelter-In-Place Order.


This latest Executive Order also expanded the definition of Essential Services as related to the Shelter-In-Place Order, to include any activity that could be defined as “preserving the health and welfare” of a person, or people.


This latest Executive order also made an Executive Order unnecessary for any future amendments, changes, additions or alterations to the Shelter-In-Place “essential services” allowances of what activities citizens may engage in. Those amendments may now be made by the Governor through “media communication,” including communication solely through social media.


According to Executive Order 04.03.20.02,titled “Expanding the definition of Essential Services and clarifying enforcement provisions in Executive Order” and issued on Saturday, March 3:


  1. NO provisions of the Order shall limit, infringe, suspend or supplant any judicial order, judgement or decree, including custodial arrangements...nor shall any person use any provisions of the Shelter-in Place Order as a defense to an action in violation of a judicial order, judgement, custodial arrangement or decree. “This paragraph does not attempt, nor shall it be construed, to imply that the Governor, in any instance, has the unilateral authority to overturn any judicial order, judgement or decree.”

  2. The phrase “engaging in activities essential for the health and safety of family or household members” as included in the definition of “essential Services” includes “any and all activities that may preserve the health and welfare of persons within this state.” Specific examples of Essential Services covered in this expanded definition were the transport, visitation or care of family members or persons dependent on the services of others, and children obtaining public internet access to fulfill educational obligations.

  3. No provision of the Shelter-In-Place Order limits the ability of law enforcement officers to enforce the laws of the state, especially as related to the emergency response provisions contained in Georgia Code Title 38, Chapter 3. For the purposes of enforcement of the Shelter-In-Place Order issued by Gov. Kemp, however, only those officials deputized by the Governor or the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency are “authorized to mandate the closure of any businesses...found not to be in compliance with Executive Order 04.02.20.02 (Shelter-In-Place.) A subsequent Executive Order by Kemp identified only county sheriffs and their deputies as being authorized with enforcement powers the Shelter-In-Place order.

  4. “The Office of the Governor may continue to issue guidance on the scope of “essential services” as needed through communication (through the) media, including social media, without the need for further Executive Orders.”

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