In the past few days, we have had numerous calls on this issue. While there is no clear law as to what rules apply to parenting time and visitation during a pandemic like COVID-19, since this is an unprecedented global health crisis, I wanted to provide some suggestions to our clients and potential clients who co-parent.
Please remember that although court orders and parenting plans are still in effect, it is imperative that you follow the advice of your doctor, government officials, and the Center for Disease Control.
If following your parenting time and visitation schedule during COVID-19 does not seem to be in the best interest of your child, you should first communicate that to your co-parent. You should also be prepared to discuss the following:
The status of the child’s health;
Contact information for the child (if it has changed);
The status in your respective municipalities including whether there is a stay-in-place order;
Whether any people in either parent’s household are sick, have a pending test for COVID-19, or are under quarantine;
Whether any people in either parent’s household work in the health care field or are a first responder; and
Whether any people in either parent’s household are immune-compromised or elderly.
If you are the residential parent and do not feel it is safe for your child to have visitation with the non-residential parent, here are some things you can offer your co-parent:
Daily or liberal Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom sessions;
“Make-Up” time once the threat of COVID-19 has passed and the local government approves the use of public spaces;
If the non-residential parent had a trip planned for Spring Break, offer an alternate summer time trip.
Additionally, you should discuss the potential for either parent’s municipality and/or household to be quarantined. For instance, who will care for the child? What happens if the parent gets sick? What happens if the child gets sick? What happens if another person in the household gets sick? This is not an exhaustive list. Keep in mind that these can change based on how far the parents live from each other as well.
If you withhold parenting time without justification and without providing some liberal virtual “face time,” or if you unjustifiably refuse to return your child to the residential parent when your visitation is over, you could face consequences in the form of contempt. This could also affect long-term parenting time as the court can change custody arrangements based on a party’s contemptuous actions.
Lastly, you should have a plan in place for similar situations that could arise in the future. We can tailor these provisions to your individual circumstances considering both parents’ locations, careers, household members, distance from each other, etc.
Ultimately, this is your child and you want to do what is best for him or her. Your co-parent likely does too. Remember, we are all in this together. Stay home, make-up any missed visitation later.
"This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before relying on the information in this blog."