Florida mother seeks custody of son, says father is coronavirus risk

A Florida mother is asking a judge to allow her to keep custody of her 2-year-old son during the pandemic, claiming the boy's father and his fiance are at higher risk of contracting the novel coronavirus since they are first-responders.

Tabatha Sams has asked a judge to let her keep custody of her son until the pandemic-induced state of emergency in Florida is over. The boy's father, Stephen Thilmony, is a firefighter and emergency medicine technician, and his fiance is an emergency room nurse at Osceola Regional Hospital in a suburb of Orlando.

The father and mother were splitting custody of their son.

A judge this week denied an emergency request to stop visitations with the father, and a virtual hearing on the matter is scheduled for next week.

The mother said in court papers that the risk posed by the boy's father is no fault of his own and she's not trying to deny him access to their child. But hospitals nationwide have struggled with the outbreak and that there isn't enough protective equipment for medical personnel, she said.

“As COVID-19 has spread throughout the United States, medical professionals and first responders have been subjected to coronavirus at a higher rate, due to their increased exposure to individuals testing positive for the virus," Sams said in court papers.

Late last month, the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court issued an order suspending requirements for all in-person visitations through mid-April because of the cornavirus threat.

“This order does not affect in-person visitations when all parties and the caregiver agree that the visitation can take place in a manner that does not pose as a health threat," wrote Chief Justice Charles Canady.

An attorney for the boy's father, Debra Botwin, didn't respond to an email seeking comment. In a text message to Sams included as an exhibit in court papers, Thilmony said he didn't think he and his fiance were doing anything wrong.

“We are taking proper measures to protect ourselves and him," Thilmony said.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know

AROUND THE WORLD: CoronavirusNOW.com

Map of known COVID-19 cases:

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map