I-TEAM: Coronavirus causing child custody conflicts

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM has found the COVID-19 outbreak is now causing battles over child custody, and it has some parents taking extreme measures to make sure their kids are not exposed to the disease. One parent even hired a private investigator.

The I-TEAM has found child custody concerns are an additional worry for paramedics, police and hospital workers. Their exes often don’t want them to see their kids since they deal directly with people infected with COVID-19 and are afraid their children will get sick.

We spoke to a Cleveland paramedic telling us he had trouble seeing his daughter.

“It’s happening to a lot of fathers and mothers in the health care field. I do take every precaution possible. Nobody wants to bring this home to their family,” he explained.

Many Northeast Ohio families say they have concerns over the virus.

Paul Baeppler, a Cleveland police officer and private investigator with his own private investigation firm, says a mother hired his firm, Integrity Investigations. She wanted her child’s father followed to see if he might be putting himself at risk of getting infected. She also wanted to see if that could be putting the child at risk.

“We put a tracking device on his car, followed him around, went to the beach to a very crowded beach. Later that afternoon, one of our investigators followed him as he went to a bar, crowded bar, shoulder to shoulder,” said Baeppler.

All of this is sending parents to the courthouses. The I-TEAM has found lots of moms and dads filing complaints about the visitation of kids because of COVID-19. They want a judge to sort it out and decide if there should be restrictions.

Cuyahoga County Judge Francine Goldberg said, “I think there’s a fear factor. We have to be sure our children are safe.”

The judge added, the fear of COVID-19 alone isn’t a reason to stop a parent from seeing a child.

She said, “We’re going to hear the concern. We’re going to talk about it. We’re going to be creative. Maybe there are certain precautions to be taken.”

In some ways, consider, the COVID outbreak is causing custody chaos.

That paramedic we met said, “I never expected it, but talking to my co-workers I find I’m not the only one in this boat.”

While the coronavirus is causing concern among families, many of the disputes are decided through phone hearings or hearings held through video hook-ups since courthouses have largely been closed to help slow the spread of the outbreak.

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