Co-parenting is hard but has become more difficult since Covid-19 has spread throughout our community. Unfortunately, there is no precedent to help lead parents through this process, and there is no legal standard to help guide the courts either.
Although we are in uncharted waters, thankfully, many factors can help guide your decisions during this time. There are many experienced attorneys to help manage any legal issues that may arise should you need the help.
Like a fire drill, you want to have a plan in place. While you may not run an actual drill, having an agreement written down is better than nothing. We hope this article helps make that plan more robust and more sensible, or if already infected, helps you navigate the next steps.
As mentioned, having a formal plan in place can help any disagreements in the heat of the moment. If can also help remind each other of any specifics the other might forget. Consider it a COVID game plan. We would always suggest taking the professional‘s word when it comes to Coronavirus.
Some families have decided that the children go to a designated person or location during a parent’s illness. Sometimes the other parent doesn’t have the ability or resources to care for the children full-time, so it’s essential to consider another responsible family member or a mutual friend.
Each parent should have their affairs listed, understood, and easy to find. You want to make the situation, mostly for the children, as seamless and stress-free as possible. If a parent happens to pass away during this time, this exercise can make a world of difference for the family moving forward.
If you haven’t had the chance to separate households yet, this could pose problems if both parents aren’t on board with a plan. Children aren’t as conscionable, and it can be hard to manage a clear COVID separation with them.
If they’re old enough to understand the circumstances, keeping a division is more likely. If the child(ren) is young and requires both parents from time to time, a more thoughtful plan is needed. Find ways to handle dinner time, e-learning needs, and other partnered events.
Along with extended distancing and masks at all times, you should consider testing and how that may fit into your efforts. If you’re here in Colorado, there are plenty of places to get free testing and get results back within a couple of days. Our families in the Bay Area of California, here are some resources for you.
Use text, video, and phone to communicate within the home. While this helps with the virus, it also allows you to record the conversations you are having. This is good for both parents and helps them to play nice knowing things may be scrutinized in the future.
If the divorce process has not started and has just be decided on, it is important that you attempt to keep a good relationship with your spouse. Should things get crazy the court is unable to intervene at the moment unless it’s an emergency situation.
If the divorce process has begun or a divorce decree has been entered, and a parenting plan has been ordered from the court, both parents must follow the parenting plan and all other orders.
It is recommended that both parents try to follow the parenting plan to the best of their abilities. Still, understandably, if your ex-spouse does contract coronavirus, it may become necessary to deviate from the plan.
Hopefully, neither you nor your ex-spouse will be subjected to such a terrible experience. If you find yourself in this situation, try to work with your ex-spouse to come up with a temporary schedule to ensure that your children are safe.
The primary thing to remember is that there needs to be a good reason to stop following the court’s parenting orders. If you think that it is essential to withhold parenting time because your ex is infected, make sure to communicate your concerns and plans with your ex-spouse.
Understandably, if your ex-spouse is infected, you will not want your child to have visitation. However, if you stop that parenting time, the courts may still see the withholding of parenting time as a deliberate violation of the parenting orders. Thus, it is important to make sure that you do agree or if an agreement cannot be reached that you save your conversations with your ex-spouse documenting the reasons that parenting time has been withheld.
If your ex-spouse further disagrees with the modification of the parenting plan temporarily, it may become necessary to ask the court to restrict the other spouses’ parenting time. To limit a parent’s parenting time, the court requires the parent to show that the child is in imminent physical or emotional danger if he/she continues to spend time with the other parent.
However, if you are thinking about restricting your ex-spouse’s parenting time, try to remember that courts want both parents to continue to follow the previous parenting plan, so they will attempt to find an alternative solution unless the standard can be met.
Therefore, it is not enough to guess whether the other spouse has tested positive or worry that your ex-spouse may test positive because he/she has continued to work as a necessary employee. The situation needs to be serious.
In other words, it requires one parent to show that the child is in emotional or physical danger if the parenting time continues. Therefore, there needs to be something specific to meet this standard. Judges will not look kindly upon a very generalized concern for the child’s safety or general fear that the child got Coronavirus.
With this in mind, it is paramount to know that it is still unknown how a judge will rule and decide these issues during this time. Judges may differ when determining whether an infected parent may meet the endangerment standard to restrict the ex-spouse’s parenting time and may find that the uninfected spouse should not be withholding parenting time.
Suppose your ex-spouse has tested positive and want to prevent your child from spending time with the infected spouse. In that case, there are several factors that you may want to consider to make sure you are doing the right thing and, if necessary, to show a court how important it is to change the parenting time while your ex-spouse is recovering.
Although this is not an exclusive list, the following factors may be helpful to consider:
Coronavirus rights if you test positive for Coronavirus? Do you get to see your children?
The bottom line, you are still entitled to see your children, and your ex-spouse needs to follow the parenting plan even if you are infected. However, that may not be something that will be best for your children. While there is no easy answer, it is essential to be flexible during this stressful time and recognize how important it is to keep your child or children safe.
Although you may want to spend time with your children, it is crucial to think reasonably if you are infected. Therefore it is necessary to try and remain understanding and reasonable with the other parent. It may also benefit your relationship with your ex-spouse and children to develop an alternative parenting plan or think up alternative ways to co-parent while you are recovering; some ideas may include participation in video visits or phone calls with your children.
As the crisis expands, it doesn’t make any sense to be hostile. As the saying goes, there is no point in rearranging the chairs on the Titanic while it sinks.
Remember, there are no right answers at this time, and courts are not quite sure how to react. If you need help because either you or your ex-spouse has acquired the virus, talk to an attorney who can give you additional information.
However, if you cannot afford an attorney during this difficult time, you can still represent yourself. Although many courts are closed currently, hearings have continued via video court proceedings when there are emergency custody issues or a need for protection orders.
Although you are no longer able to file at the clerk’s office, the courts are still accepting mail and may have additional ways to file on their websites.
Good luck and stay safe. Click here for more COVID articles.
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