- Do I have to follow my parenting time access schedule during the COVID-19 outbreak? Yes, generally speaking, parents should follow their custody and parenting time agreement during this crisis. There is no doubt that there may be concern regarding your child’s safety during this time, but concern over the virus itself alone may not be an excuse for denying another parent time spent with their child. Communication as always is key and this is the time for parents to set aside personal differences. Try to agree on what is best for all involved, including following the CDC guidelines on protecting family from the Corona virus. If following the parenting agreement may pose a considerable risk for someone, then parents should work together to find an alternative solution. If someone in either household has been exposed to the virus or has a vulnerable person living with them, it is important that parents try to make alternative arrangements to safeguard everyone from unnecessary risk.
- What are some parenting access substitutions that may be employed? Parents could agree that the child should stay in one household until the quarantine or isolation period passes. If that is the case, there can be Facetime or Zoom parenting time, and more talking over the telephone. Frequent zoom or facetimes will help to reassure the child during these uncertain times. Imagine the uncertainty and anxiety that we as grownups feel; the children are feeling even more stress with their whole schedule turned upside down. Now is the time for both parents to work together to ease the anxiety for the child. Once the quarantine ends and “normal” life resumes, the child can spend extra time with the parent the child missed time with. Any temporary changes or agreements to the parenting access schedule should be recorded in written form, either on paper, email or text message so that there will be no cause for misinterpretation.
- What if I cannot reach an agreement with the other parent, and decide not to allow parenting time?
If a motion is filed by the other parent, it will be up to you to explain to the Court the reasoning behind your decision. The court will then determine whether you had a good reason to violate the agreement. The court may ask how you came to the decision to withhold parenting time, what attempts you made to reach an alternative agreement, and any other actions that you took to protect the child.
- What if my child is in a high-risk category if he/she contracts COVID-19, and I am concerned about exposure during parenting time?
Once again, COMMUNICATION is key. Parents must discuss the child’s health concerns and make mutual decisions to keep the child safe. Each parent must take the necessary precautions to assure the child’s safety. This should include limiting the child’s exposure during parenting time to individuals who could be contagious or ill, and anyone who may have been in contact with someone who may be contagious.
It cannot stressed enough that during this unprecedented time, no one has a roadmap for navigating through these decisions. Communication, communication, communication is key. Forget about the feelings that you may have for each other and work together to make the best decisions for the safety and wellbeing of your children.