13 May Navigating Vistation During COVID-19
By Starr Culpepper, Esq.
Coronavirus concerns have made things especially tough on parents who are divorced, share custody, or have visitation orders in place. Co-parenting takes a lot of planning and coordination, with COVID-19 we have to all be flexible and get through this together. My advice is to always use your best judgment to protect the health and safety of your children and communicate openly with the co-parent. If you have a current order in place for visitation or joint custody, adhere to that schedule as best as you can. Both parents should be open to being flexible and working together. If this means extra Facetime or video chatting while sheltering in place, then that accommodation should be made. In the event of quarantine, the parent should forgo parenting time until the quarantine ends, and the other parent should provide makeup parenting time.
Co-parents should develop a safety plan together in advance! They should take into account that traveling may be limited due to governmental restrictions such as Shelter in Place Orders. Parents must consider:
• Who is the custodial parent
• If either parent or family member has been exposed to the virus or displaying symptoms
• Be transparent about symptom spotting or potential exposure
• Parents should be communicating work schedules
• If there are more vulnerable (immunocompromised) individuals in the household
• Which household better accommodates frequent contact with the other parent through skype, facetime
• Which parent can be available for care and e-learning homeschooling
Parents have to use their best judgment as a team and agree on where a child should stay in the event it no longer makes sense to abide by the court order for safety purposes. Although it is never acceptable to disobey a court’s order, it is amicable to agree to do what’s best for health and safety.
The courts in Alabama are only accommodating emergency hearings right now, so parents will have to figure out immediate issues themselves. If there is an underlying health issue or a child has a compromised or weakened immune system the court may offer some relief. I advise filing a “Motion to Suspend Visitation” and attach a letter from the doctor explaining the diagnosis of the child or party needing relief. This can be filed as an emergency due to COVID-19, and the court can issue an order.
If you need help navigating visitation during COVID-19, give me a call!
Stay tuned for more tips!
-Starr Culpepper, Esq.