JACKSON CENTER – A 6-year-old Jackson Center boy is the subject of a custody battle centered on the question of whether his mother’s work near COVID-19 patients endangers his health.
Chad York, of Jackson Center, filed a motion May 28 in Shelby County Common Pleas Court to suspend his ex-wife’s visitation rights with their son. Chad York contends Rosanna York’s work at a Marion skilled nursing facility endangers the health of their son, who has asthma and had part of a lung removed before his first birthday.
“He was trying to prevent the child from contracting this horrible virus,” said William R. Zimmerman Jr., Chad York’s attorney.
Magistrate Kristina M. Morris granted temporary custody of the child to Chad York and suspended the in-person visitation rights of the boy’s mother, Rosanna York, of Marion. Morris scheduled a telephone pretrial for June 17 for further consideration of the matter.
“It’s not right,” Rosanna York said. “It’s discriminatory because of my profession.
“I shouldn’t be forced to choose between my livelihood and my child.”
Rosanna York worked as a nurse at Heartland of Marion, which has had 48 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health. She quit her job June 5 in an effort to regain visitation rights with her son.
“I loved my job. I loved my coworkers. I loved our corporate. I loved my patients. I love what I do. This is what I was born to do. And I feel like I’m giving up my passion in my life because I love my children. I love my children more. But I shouldn’t have to choose,” said Rosanna York, who has two other children from other relationships.
The Yorks have had multiple shared parenting agreements since Rosanna York filed for divorce in May 2015 after two-and-a-half years of marriage.
In October 2018, Chad York filed a motion to make him the primary guardian of their son, stating he could provide a more stable home environment.
In September 2019, then-Magistrate Gary J. Carter approved a custody agreement that gave Chad York primary custody of the child. Rosanna York was granted visitation every other weekend.
Rosanna York said she disagreed with the custody arrangement but couldn’t afford to fight it because she was in nursing school.
“Pretty much I was penalized for trying to better my life for the benefit of my children,” she said, adding she worries she won’t be able to afford a good attorney for the current custody dispute.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and Heartland of Marion, Rosanna York said, she stayed away from her 6-year-old son out of an abundance of caution.
“No one has seen anything like this since the Spanish flu,” she said. “We were all uneasy with this.”
But as more information was discovered about the virus and she tested negative for it multiple times, Rosanna York said, she felt more comfortable and decided to spend a weekend with her son.
She sent a text message on June 5 to her ex-husband to inform him that she would pick up their son that evening. But that same day, before she could pick up her son, she said she was blindsided by a notice about the suspension of her visitation rights.
Zimmerman said Chad York had tried to discuss the situation with Rosanna York, but she wouldn’t respond. Chad York also contends Rosanna York wasn’t forthcoming about her work with COVID-19 patients, and he worried about the negative effects the virus could have on their son, who is considered high risk for COVID-19.
“He’s not trying to keep the child from the mother,” Zimmerman said. “He’s simply trying to keep the child safe because he doesn’t think she’s taking appropriate actions.”
During their custody disputes, both parents have accused the other of neglecting their son’s health.
Rosanna York said the precautions health care workers take greatly reduces their risk of contracting COVID-19. Being in a nursing facility while wearing proper personal protective equipment is less dangerous than being in public, she said.
“This is discrimination of health care workers. I’m not the only person this has happened to,” she said, adding privacy laws prevent her from disclosing information about patients.
Rosanna York said she’s confident in her ability to find a new job and already has been contacted by a company seeking a home health nurse. While it is a lower paying job, she would have more flexibility in selecting her patients and could lessen her risk of exposure to COVID-19.
She still hopes she’ll be able to return to Heartland of Marion, though.
“I feel like I’m being forced to choose between two loves in my life,”she said. “Of course my child won. But I shouldn’t have to choose.”
If Rosanna York is no longer employed at a facility with COVID-19 patients, Zimmerman said, Chad York would entertain the idea of returning to the most recent custody agreement.
“I can guarantee that he has the best interest of this kid at heart and that is solely his motivation,” Zimmerman said. “There is nothing nefarious going on with Chad York.”
Rosanna York also questioned whether a court could suspend parental rights of health care workers who are exposed to any number of diseases besides COVID-19.
“Where does this stop?” she said. “That is a virus. There are other contagious diseases, contagious infections like MRSA, CRE, C. diff. Every time I have to work with these patients you’re telling me someone can take my child away from me? Where does it stop?
“We are being discriminated against because of our jobs. That’s not right.”