When everything is in flux and chaos reigns, do any rules still hold true? We are living in an alternate reality so what actually matters? Life is more important than rules, right? How do we know what to do?!?!
What could be a better reason to depart from your parenting plan than your child’s health and safety? But nothing is ever clear-cut so what does that mean: “health”? “safety”? Can two reasonable people disagree on what is necessary to keep your child healthy and safe in the midst of this pandemic? You betcha!
When Is It Reasonable to Suspend Visitation?
Nobody knows!!! Nobody knows how individual judges in different states are going to decide this. The Judges in New York will disagree with each other but still have a much different perspective than the Judges in Texas, who will also disagree with each other. We are all in a state of flux and unknowing.
A few things that may make suspending visitation more reasonable:
- Is your child or someone in one household considered medically fragile or vulnerable to Covid?
- Does travel for the child result in an undue, or very high risk?
- Has a parent or any member of a parent’s household been exposed to Covid or are they showing symptoms?
If your child or a member of a household are vulnerable, please, please, please respect strict quarantining measures. That does not necessarily give you full leeway to suspend your parenting plan but it does increase the concern and impact of keeping your child virus-free.
If travel for your child poses a significant risk, suspending visitation may weigh in your favor. This is a very fluid situation however, and although air travel may not be considered safe today, it may be deemed safe tomorrow. If your child is of an age where precautions can be taken to protect them, then travel may not be a concern. If you can make accommodations to meet by car, then travel might not be the deciding factor.
If someone in one parent’s household is positive with Covid, has had contact with a positive case, or is displaying symptoms, visitation should probably be suspended until a 14-day quarantine has passed or 14-20 days has passed since the patient has their last symptoms. While no one can say, and each court and judge is different, it is likely more reasonable than not to keep your child away from a possible positive Covid case.
Get Health Information About Covid-19 Here.
What If I Am Scared for My Child?
First, do NOT let your child be scared to come visit you or make your child scared about going to the other parent’s!!!! It is not your child’s choice where they go and who they spend time with. Scaring them does not necessarily keep them safe, it just causes distress and sadness during an already very difficult time.
It is absolutely appropriate to talk to your kids about washing their hands and social distancing and explain how to stay safe. But don’t let them think they WILL get sick if they come to your house or to go to see the other parent . This can be a very frightening time for kids and they need your reassurance that things will be okay.
If you are truly afraid for your child, you can file an emergency motion with the Court. Before you do so, write your Ex an email or letter explaining the way you feel and why you feel that way. It’s great practice because this is what you are going to say to your attorney and the Judge, so might as well do the work upfront and give your Ex the chance to hear it and make corrections now. Try hard not to attack them. Remember, your goal is to protect your child, so stay focused on the outcome. If a polite tone helps you accomplish that goal, use a polite tone! Pretend you are addressing your neighbor or favorite aunt. You don’t need your Ex to admit they are wrong, you just need them to take different precautions.
This is a very uncertain time for everyone and kids worry! When will life go back to normal? Allowing them to see both parents provides a little taste of that ‘normal.’ With a lot of time and not as much to do, a change of scenery may help everyone’s mental state.
Changing Your Schedule Might Be A Great Idea!
There’s no reason not to change your parenting plan to work around this new world scenario. It’s part of being flexible and doing what’s best for your kids.
Now might be a great time to make a gesture to the other parent to start on the path towards an easier post-divorce life. Talk about changing the parenting plan so both parents, and the kids, have a win-win-win.
- Change parenting time so that if one parent has to catch up on work or a big zoom meeting, the other parent has the kids.
- Take into consideration each parent’s living situation to give the kids more access to safe outdoor space. (While this factor might not be any big deal in the normal-world, this might be a big deal in the Covid-world.)
- Alter the summer parenting time so instead of a 3-month block, you start 2-week visits now. This gives both parents the same amount of time but nobody has to go such long periods without seeing each other.
Anytime both parents agree, they can depart from the parenting plan. We are all making sacrifices right now, some harsher than others. As difficult as it is to be worried about your child or to be missing your child, try to assume that the other person loves your children and wants what is best for them. Try to use communication to decide what are the right steps to take to protect them (and yourselves) from getting sick.
If you would like for us to start this conversation for you, we have many resources about Covid available, and a message from a third party helps people to stay more focused on the kids and less focused on how they feel about their Ex. We can allow you to have Productive & Polite conversations with just the facts!
We can also help you draft an email explaining your position and concerns in a neutral tone as well as help brainstorm solutions for your particular situation.