If you are a servicemember or share a child with a servicemember, you may be curious to know how COVID 19 and the stay at home orders issued by our Governor, Jared Polis, impact you. The easiest answer is “it depends.” Other than Governor Polis issuing the shelter-at-place order, life may actually not have changed at all for you.
Parenting time must still occur under the shelter-in-place order and in fact, Chief Judge Order 20-16 regarding Court Operations Under the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory, Para. III.C reaffirms that COVID19 does not affect parenting exchanges. But it may not be so simple for some military servicemembers.
The military is issuing its own orders, even outside of Governor Polis’s shelter-in-place order. These may be more restrictive than the shelter-in-place, such as an absolute travel ban and also a mandatory stay either on or off base. Some servicemembers, depending on rank, position and other factors, have been ordered to stay on base even if they own their own home or rent an off-base dwelling.
If you are the servicemember and you live on base or have been ordered to remain on base, you are seeing the worst of the impact. Because the military issues its own orders regarding COID 19, you may be limited in your travel and even your ability to leave the base.
One issue you may have encountered is if you live in another state from your child on a base, you may have to temporarily forgo seeing your children because you may not travel by order of your command. Because the military is preventing travel from in and out of most bases, you may be forced to ask your co-parent to temporarily take over your parenting time due to the fact that you simply cannot exercise parenting time. This can be emotionally stressful, but rest assured that this does not mean this is a permanent alteration to your parenting plan. Always consult the parenting plan and make sure you are complying to the best of your ability, but emergent circumstances are often exceptions to parenting plans and do not generally create modifications to the parenting plan.
Also another option to consider, under In Re Marriage of Depalma 176 P.3d 829 (Colo.App. Div. 4 2007), the Court recognizes that servicemembers often need to delegate their parenting time to others. Instead of asking the other parent to keep the children during your time, you may delegate your parenting time to others. If a service member has a spouse who is off base, parenting time under this case can be delegated to that step-parent (so long as that step-parent will not endanger the children). Additionally, this can even mean grandparents or other people with strong ties to the children can exercise parenting time on your behalf while you are currently restricted to base. Once more, while Depalma understands that parents generally make good choices in their children’s interests, you must always ensure you who are asking to have parenting time is not only a reasonable person, but during this time—a healthy person not currently showing symptoms of illness.
Our country is under a national emergency. While we would all like for co-parents to put the needs of their children above their own needs, we understand that is not always what is happening. If your co-parent is not cooperating with you, give us a call and explain the situation. You may have a motion to enforce issue. We offer quick, free phone calls where our qualified attorneys can determine whether you have an issue under In Re Depalma, and if so, if a motion to enforce or another option is appropriate.
If you are not the servicemember and your children are stationed on a base, it may be even more frustrating for you because you do not have the same limitations as the military has ordered, but the military orders are impacting you. While motions to enforce and contempt are still being processed and moving forward with the most Courts, this may not be something accomplishable for you. Unlike the above paragraph that explained why these motions may be beneficial for the servicemember, this issue is not because the servicemember is trying to keep the children from you—it is that the servicemember has no choice but to.
At Modern Family Law, either if you’re the servicemember or not, we offer free consultations that can be accomplished by phone or video and we will let you know if it sounds like your case is appropriate for contempt, enforcement or something else entirely. However, if your servicemember co-parent is not trying to withhold the children, but is following a mandatory and stricter order regarding absolute travel from on or off bases, odds are it may be likely that an enforcement or contempt motion would not be appropriate. However, this does not mean that a servicemember parent should intentionally withhold a child from the other parent. Always speak to command first and learn the full extent of the restrictions before making decisions. Especially large decisions that may impact parenting time.
Depending on the base, the branch of the military, and even command—there may be different levels of how far this impacts you as a non-servicemember. These additional orders may not even apply or harm you. Again, it all depends on the level of security a specific base has implemented.
The first thing both the servicemember and the other parent should do is determine what kind of restrictions the base has implemented. There may be exceptions for exchanges near or around the base for parenting exchanges. There may be general blanket exceptions and some servicemembers will not be impacted whatsoever other than Governor Polis’s shelter-in-place order. Regardless, determine the level of travel/restriction a servicemember has on their respective base. Communicate with each other and determine a plan. If you are either the servicemember or not and have a fear that the other parent is not complying with the shelter-in-place order or is otherwise endangering the children, please give us a call and we can help determine what you can do to protect your children. Restriction hearings are still moving forward with the Court. Even if the other parent is not restricted, the Court may at least reaffirm the shelter-in-place order and all the other precautions that our country is being told to do.
The world is doing what it can to battle COVID19. We must all be understanding and flexible. Co-parenting either as a servicemember or with a servicemember often can provide unique challenges not often thought about with general civilian life. In short, the military is its own governing body and while Governor Polis has explained that the shelter-in-place orders do not apply to court orders, the military can—and does—supersede civilian orders.
It is our hope that neither parent must be faced with any of the worst-case scenarios that were explained above. But if this has happened or something else related to the military’s orders and COVID 19, please find our closest location.
We are helping families impacted by COVID by offering 50% off our retainers. Ask your attorney about qualifications.
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