How COVID-19 impacts child custody and parenting plans

The COVID-19 pandemic has required individuals and families to adjust to new restrictions and to be more intentional than ever about health and safety – particularly parents. As we enter the holiday season and restrictions remain in effect, it’s a good time to remind parents who share custody of a child about the pandemic’s impact on court-ordered custody.

As with any rulings regarding custody and modifications, the best interests of the child are always paramount. Guidelines from the Family Court Advisory Commission stipulate that the goal is to “follow their parenting plan and/or custody order as closely as possible to ensure a level of consistency and stability that is in the best interest of the child(ren).”

What if a parent tests positive?

If one parent is diagnosed with COVID-19 or displays symptoms related to the novel coronavirus, or if another member of his or her household is diagnosed with COVID-19 or display symptoms, the other parent sharing custody should be notified as soon as possible. The state guidelines say, “the parties should work together to protect the health and safety of the child(ren) by following the advice of their healthcare provider(s).”

What if a parent isn’t protective enough?

Parents are encouraged to share the measures they are taking to help protect themselves and ensure the safety of their children. However, a parent is not permitted to unilaterally decide to deny parenting time to the child’s other parent because, in their opinion, the other parent is not being cautious enough.

If you cannot come to agreement with your child’s other parent on acceptable protective steps to adhere to, it is wise to discuss your options with a knowledgeable family law attorney.

Be understanding and creative

The pandemic has turned a lot of divorced parents’ lives upside down. Incomes are lower or nonexistent. In addition, work-from-home situations may make existing parenting schedules difficult to follow. This is a time to work with your child’s other parent to make things work as smoothly as possible. Communicate openly and be forgiving when something needs to be adjusted.

Lean on each other, and when necessary, rely on an experienced family law attorney to help you resolve disputes.