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Child Protection

Co-Parenting Concerns during Coronavirus

Since early March of 2020, our offices have received numerous calls from concerned parents on how to co-parent during Covid19. Many parents are naturally afraid to exchange their children during this pandemic, fearing their child may contract Covid19, while in the other parent’s care. I have even received calls asking me if parenting orders are still in place during Covid19. Rest assured, parenting orders are still in place during Covid19. However, that does not mean a concerned parent has no remedy.

Parenting orders, while still in place, can be modified. If a parent has genuine concerns that the minor child is more likely to contract Covid19 while staying or visiting with the other parent, the concerned parent may have grounds for an emergency motion to restrict parenting time. The mere filing of the motion will automatically grant the concerned parent a 14-day injunction barring the other parenting from exercising parenting time. The Court will then set a hearing to determine whether the current parenting orders should indeed be restricted. However, it is important to consult with an attorney before bringing this motion, as the court may penalize the concerned parent, should it deem the motion to be frivolous or brought in bad faith.

A concerned parent should also avoid self-help at all costs, such as refusing to turn over the minor child to the other parent, without a modification or restriction of the existing court order. The other parent who has a court order allowing him parenting time on certain days has the right to get a civil assist from local law enforcement. The use of self-help can also cause a concerned parent to be penalized by the Court and could result in the loss of parenting time or worse.

There are also non-parents, who have had physical, but not legal custody, over the minor child. In many cases they have had custody over the minor child for years, and sometimes with the consent of the actual parents. It is very important for these non-parents (e.g. grandparents, stepparents, relatives etc…) to get a legal determination of custody over the minor child. Otherwise, an actual parent, whom in many cases has not been seen in years, can show up with local law enforcement and take custody of the minor child. Also, a parent who has consented to custody can revoke it at any time, if an order allowing the non-parent custody is not in place. In Colorado, a non-parent who has had physical custody of the minor child for a 182 days or more may have the right to bring an action for allocation of parental responsibilities to obtain legal custody over the minor child.

We all want to protect our loved ones, but it is important to note that there are ways to do that, and you should always seek legal counsel, before restricting another parent’s parenting-time. If the other parent’s rights to visitation or custody have not been restricted by the court, then they have the same right to be with the child as you do.

Posted April 08, 2020

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