Is visitation during the coronavirus mandatory? Do I still have to give visitation to the other parent while this emergency continues?
Here are some basic thoughts on how to handle matters with another parent during this challenging time. Obviously, those who are successfully co-parenting are likely doing a great job. For those whose parenting situations are more challenging, here are some thoughts.
Follow Your Parenting Plan If You Have One
Do not take advantage of general chaos in the world to withhold parenting time. What goes around comes around, and eventually, once the Courts re-open, there may be many custody, visitation, contempt and similar motions filed against parents who “thought” they were doing the right thing when what they were really doing was violating a Court Order and denying parenting rights.
Of course, if the other parent or someone in their household, etc., has the coronavirus, that could be different. Call your attorney immediately for advice.
If you feel the other parent is allowing your child too much access to other people and children and not following Social Distancing guidelines, you need to speak to the other parent immediately. If the two of you have joint legal decision-making rights under your Parenting Plan, each of you must use your own good judgment about what to do when you have the child. You cannot force your own guidelines on the other parent’s household, unless he or she is violating the law. But you can get a mediation or contempt petition started. In Maryland, as of March 18, contempt petitions are still being heard by the Courts.
If your child says he or she is scared, speak to the other parent (not by blaming 0 but by providing information) so that the other parent can take action to make the child feel better.
If Your Child Is Sick
If your child is sick – but not with the coronavirus – the child should be exchanged at regular parenting times unless your Parenting Plan says otherwise.
Communicate everything about your child’s illness to the other parent, in writing. Try to stick to email. Start one email string with all information about the child’s symptoms, what medication is given, when, and how often. Keeping all this information in one place will let you both care for your child.
Visits to doctors or urgent care should be communicated immediately to the other parent, including all information, symptoms, diagnoses, and medications. Tell the other parent where you filled the prescriptions. Share the child’s prescriptions, and if the other parent asks, share the over-the-counter medications too.
If Exchange Time Is Normally Done Through School and School is Cancelled
If your child isn’t attending school and it’s an exchange day, you need to communicate with the other parent and agree on an exchange time and location. If no other time is specified in writing anywhere, pick a time. If you can’t exchange the child at someone’s home, find a public place as close to the child’s school as possible to make the exchange, preferably outdoors and away from others. You can exchange in the parking lot of a retailer or some other large public area where you don’t need to be near a lot of people. Park close enough for the child to walk safely from one parent to the other without being exposed to others.
Contact Your Attorney
This is a time when you should communicate with your attorney to avoid a misstep regarding visitation during the coronavirus that could leave you on the wrong side of a contempt petition or change of custody once this emergency lessens and the Courts reopen. If your family law attorney is not communicating by phone, email, video, etc., find one who is, now.
If a Court Hearing is Coming Up and You Don’t Know What’s Going On
If you have an attorney, email the attorney and ask if anything has changed with your hearing. Things are changing by the hour with the court system. Your attorney may not know yet what’s going on, but he or she will contact you when they do know. Court hearings that are postponed may be rescheduled in a month, three months, six months, or longer. It depends on the issue, the Court and their backlog. Many courts are still ruling on motions, just without a hearing, unless they are emergency matters.
Now Is the Time to Parent
This is the “all hands on deck” time of our lives. Most parents in separate households raising children will find a way. However, there are always those parents who just don’t “get it.” And there are those parents who will try to take advantage of the situation. Communicating quickly and effectively with your attorney is your best way to gain information and decide when and how to act.
Call SIEGELLAW at 410-792-2300 for help. Or fill out the form on this page to request additional information.