Co-Parenting Recommendations During COVID-19
By: Christina O’Brien, Esq.
During this stressful and unprecedented time of COVID-19, many parents have questions about how to address their timesharing. At the time of this writing, there has been a “Safe At Home” Order issued, but there has not been a “Shelter In Place” Order issued. Thus, it is recommended that under the current Order, so long as everyone is healthy, you keep following your current parenting plan, whether it temporary or permanent. Stability and consistency during this otherwise uncertain time is very important for children.
Take proper preventive measures
If your parenting plan calls for an exchange in a public place, it is recommended that you exchange outside of the location without going inside to prevent any possibility of exposure. If possible, when you are exchanging then children at one of the parent’s homes, you should have as little contact as possible, and exchange the children either in the driveway or at the curb.
Is the exchange of children an essential activity?
If your parenting plan calls for airplane travel, it may be necessary to delay that timesharing until it is safer to do so. It is doubtful that a “Shelter In Place” Order will be issued in Florida or nationwide, but if it was, then typically you would be limited to essential travel. Courts all over Florida have addressed this issue differently. Some have found that during a “Shelter in Place” Order, the exchange of children between divorced or separated parents should be deemed an essential activity, while others have found that time-sharing should cease if that kind of order is issued. Again, as stated above, avoid having contact with others, including the other parent.
What happens if one parent tests positive for COVID-19?
If one parent becomes ill or is self-quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19, the parents will have to make a decision on whether the children have been exposed, and which parent should keep the children. This should be a family decision based on how the children and parents are feeling, with the goal of limiting exposure to the other parent and his/her family. There is no “right” answer, but understand that the Court will always look at which parent is acting in the child’s best interest.
Some parents will have to work more during this crisis, and others may be laid off and not working as much or working remotely. Parents should work together and cooperate with the ever changing situation. This should not be a time to look for an opportunity to keep the child from the other parent, but instead to look for alternatives on how your child can have contact with the other parent. Perhaps add in a FaceTime or Skype call each day, or have the other parent help with school work or educational activities on a videochat.
If you don’t have a parenting plan in place, keep in mind that the Courts encourage both parents to be involved in decision-making for the child. Both parents should have frequent contact with their children. Unless there is a safety issue and one parent tests positive or has exposure to COVID-19, this is not a time to withhold a child from the other parent.
“Once you bring kids into the world, it’s not about you anymore.” – Tony Gaskins
Remember to be patient and transparent. Always communicate with your co-parent. During this difficult time, be creative and always put your children’s needs first.