The current coronavirus pandemic, and the government’s response, has many parents asking how this affects their parent time and parent time exchanges. If you or anyone in your family has not tested positive, the court’s position is that parent-time and parent-time exchanges are to remain unchanged. Parents should not attempt to use the crisis as a means to secure additional parent-time that they aren’t entitled to, and they must not withhold parent time. This is a time when everyone’s emotions are running high, and everyone is trying to make the best decisions they can to protect their families. However, parents should not use this time to engage in gamesmanship with each other or try to take advantage of the situation. Parents must understand that their children are afraid of the virus as well, and they need the reassurance of frequent, meaningful contact with both parents if its possible to do so without endangering anyone’s health.
Parents may need to make some changes to parent-time exchanges due to school closures. Many parents have custody agreements that require the parents to do parent-time exchanges that coincide with their children’s school schedule. In these situations, many courts advise that the parents should continue these exchanges until the conclusion of the academic year; however, school exchanges should occur at the parent’s curbside.
Parents are also encouraged to model good behavior for the children: intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing.
Parents should encourage their children to remain close with their other parent and increasing virtual parent time while all parties have the time available can be a good way to accomplish that. If either parent has to miss parent time, the other should try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if possible. The parties should work together to make reasonable accommodations, if they can be made. The courts will take seriously issues raised when parents are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.
Likewise, the courts expect parents to be understanding if the pandemic poses an economic hardship and lost earnings for either parent.
Parents should also provide honest information to co-parents about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus. Both parents should be informed immediately if the child or anyone in their household is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.
What if my child tests positive?
If your child tests positive or is exhibiting possible symptoms, follow the advice of the child’s doctor. This may mean quarantining your whole household for two weeks. In this case, it may be necessary to provide your co-parent with makeup time and increasing your child’s virtual parent time with your co-parent. The parents should follow their divorce decree in making medical decisions, which generally includes good faith discussions between themselves to decide the best course of action as directed by competent medical professionals.
The most important thing a parent needs to keep in mind is to do what is in their children’s best interests. The courts are very clear that in most cases, the children’s best interest includes having two parents actively involved in their lives, especially during these challenging times.
We know that the coronavirus has increased the challenges you face as a co-parent. We stay up to date with every update provided by judges and commissioners to provide you with the best information and advice available. If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call our office.