How does COVID-19 Affect My Custody Schedule?
With Governor Hogan’s recent Stay-At-Home Order, many parents are wondering if they still need to abide by their custody orders and agreements. The simple answer? Yes. Your Order still applies. Unless you and/or the other parent have been exposed to or are suffering from COVID-19, your Order still applies and you need to follow your Order. Further, even IF you or the other parent have been exposed to or are suffering from COVID-19, your Order STILL applies. Look at Page 3 vi of the March 30, 2020 Order.
But what if I am sick? What if the other parent is sick? In that scenario, I implore you to use reason. I implore you to work with the other parent and have a candid discussion where you ask one another the following questions:
- What is safest for our child?
- What is safest for you and me?
- If Parent A gets to have the child in their care for more time, how will Parent B’s makeup time work (because yes, Parent B will get 100% makeup time).
- How can we as parents limit our exposure to our kids and to one another? Can we agree on our “bubble” of other individuals (if any) that we need to interact with?
Remember, these discussions need to be used as shields and not swords. It is important to have candid talks about how you can best protect your kids. This is not the time to “get” the other parent and thus gain more time with your kid. It is a time to put down the boxing gloves and be compassionate and understanding. Parent B is not a “bad” parent if they willingly give up time to protect the kids. Parent A is not a “bad” parent if they are coming up with ideas to protect the kids. Now more than ever, it is a time to listen.
What happens if you cannot get over the hump and you need intervention to help figure out what to do? I am going to go out on a limb and surmise that the courts are not going to consider these situations emergencies. Instead, I suggest you enlist the help of a skilled mediator to help you and the other parent reach an “Interim COVID-19 Agreement.” There are several of us that are still meeting with parties “virtually” doing this very thing. Not only is mediation more amicable than trying to figure this out in court, it is going to be much quicker, is available now, and is much cheaper.
If you are still in need of more guidance, I suggest you review the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)’s Seven Guidelines:
- Be Healthy.
- Be Mindful.
- Be Compliant.
- Be Creative.
- Be Transparent.
- Be Generous.
- Be Understanding.
I would be happy to help you and your co-parent mediate your family law matter (virtually of course). Please contact me by e-mailing me here, with a carbon copy to the other parent, so we can discuss next steps.
Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. The author has provided the links referenced above for information purposes only and by doing so, does not adopt or incorporate the contents.