Maintaining a Child Visitation Schedule in a Covid 19 World
In the midst of the current pandemic of Coronavirus or COVID-19 many parents are left wondering how this impacts their existing visitation schedule. COVID-19 poses very serious health risks and of course children’s safety and well-being must be the number one priority for parents sharing custody. Little direction has been provided by the courts in this unprecedented time. Generally, the best thing to do is to maintain your existing custody and visitation schedule unless it is unsafe to do so. Some things to consider when determining if it’s safe to maintain the existing visitation schedule should be:
- Does the child have to fly to visit with the other parent?
- Is the child immunocompromised or have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19?
- Is someone living in one parent’s house immunocompromised or have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19?
- Does one parent work outside of the home and have frequent contact with the public?
- Is the other parent typically abiding by the Shelter in Place orders?
- Does one parent work in healthcare?
Recently in Florida, an Emergency Room doctor temporarily lost custody of her 4-year-old child due to the mother’s frequent and continued contact with infected patients at work. The court determined that it was in the best interest of the minor child to suspend the mother’s timeshare. Her and her ex-husband had previously practiced an equal timeshare schedule.
If a parent tests positive for COVID-19 virus, then custodial time should be postponed until they have been treated and test negatively for the virus.
In the event that one parent is unable to utilize their visitation schedule time both parents, particularly the parent who has the child, should be flexible and make accommodations to allow regular and frequent contact with the other parent and to make up most if not all of the missed custodial time when it is safe to do so. Regular and frequent contact may be accomplished by Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and or telephone calls.
Your Judgment or custody Order may have a provision specifying how missed custodial time can be made up.
Ideally, both parents should discuss the potential risk factors and work together towards an arrangement that allows the child access to both parents while making the health and safety of the child the number one priority. However, sometimes parents are unable to come to an agreement and that often leaves the parent without custody of the child unable to spend time with or maintain contact with the child.
Typical measures to enforce a visitation schedule order are not as readily available to parents as they once were.
Law enforcement will be less inclined to enforce a visitation order while Shelter in Place orders are in effect.
The family courts are currently closed except for emergency orders and domestic violence related issues. When they do reopen to hear all issues, there will be a back log and it will take longer than usual to get a court date.
If the other parent is being unreasonable and using the Shelter in Place orders as an excuse not to abide by the visitation orders, be sure to document all of your efforts to see and maintain contact with your child.
If you are unable to come to an agreement with the other parent on how to exercise your custodial time or if you have questions about the enforcement of a custody and visitation schedule order and live in Mendocino County, Sonoma County, or Lake County California, contact our experienced Santa Rosa family law attorneys today to schedule a confidential consultation.