Coronavirus and Parent-time
Is your ex refusing to allow you parent-time because it may cause your child to catch Coronavirus? Are you worried about letting your ex visit the children because you do not want them to catch this new virus? Many Utah parents like you are dealing with these problems in this period of uncertainty.
The principle to keep in mind is be reasonable and make your children’s well-being your top priority. This is true regardless of whether you are the “custodial” or “non-custodial” parent. What does this mean? Well if you are sick with Coronavirus-like symptoms then putting your children first means you should let your co-parent know and make arrangements to have him/her care for the children until you get better. It also means the other co-parent should be reasonable in return and make arrangements to allow the parent selflessly sacrificing his/her time with the children to make it up later after recovering. If your co-parent is unable because they are sick themselves, in quarantine, have work commitments, etc. then you should discuss and jointly agree on another suitable adult who can help care for your kids until one of you gets better (e.g. relatives, friends, neighbors, etc).
This also means if your ex appears healthy and wants to continue exercising parent-time as normal then you should continue to follow your existing order. It is generally not appropriate for either parent to act as their own judge and unilaterally change an existing parent-time schedule. If you are worried, talk with your co-parent about your concerns. If they are sick or have been in close contact with individuals suffering from this disease, ask them to get tested and discuss what you can both do to keep the children safe. Likewise, if you may be the sick parent then you should let your co-parent know, seek appropriate medical care, and follow your doctor’s advice. While waiting for test results, be reasonable and make your children’s safety your top priority. If a parent misses out on parent-time because of illness (or suspected illness), arrangements should be made to make it up at a later date. Neither parent should seek to take advantage over the other because of the terrible consequences of this disease. If you and your co-parent cannot agree on whether parent-time should be suspended because of illness, consider asking the court to decide before either parent takes the law into their own hands. Utah family courts remain open and available to make decisions on an emergency basis for these types of issues.
There are unfortunately some parents out there who, through carelessness or design, do not have their children’s best interest at heart. Some parents will use exaggerated concerns about the other parent as an excuse to restrict his/her parent-time. This is a form of child abuse. Your children are going through enough stress and anxiety as is dealing with the disruptions in their daily lives. Your children need all the support they can get from loving parents. They need the reassurance life will eventually return to normal. Do not use the disruptions this virus is causing as an excuse to settle old scores with your ex and put your children in the middle of parental conflict. They need love and support from both of you more than ever right now. Parents who instead put their own selfish interests ahead of their children will eventually have to answer to the Court which may hold them in contempt and impose sanctions. Such sanctions may include losing parental rights altogether, a change in custody, jail time, having to pay the other parent’s attorney fees, making up the time they shorted (or even more), etc. Be reasonable and remember to love your children more than you might hate your ex.
That being said, if you have a reasonable basis to suspect your co-parent is sick with Coronavirus or has been exposed to someone who is and they are not taking appropriate measures to protect your children from harm, you can ask the Court for an emergency order to suspend his/her parent-time pending testing (and if testing confirms your co-parent is infected then to suspend it until s/he is sufficiently recovered). But to the extent possible, you should first discuss and try to reach an agreement with your co-parent on how to handle these issues. The Court’s focus will be on doing what is best for your children regardless of what either parent prefers. Again, be reasonable and put your children’s best interest first.
What if one of your kids gets sick with this virus? Again, communicate with your co-parent and make your child’s well-being your top priority. You may want to seek out the input of your child’s pediatrician to see if it is Coronavirus or just a common cold/flu. If your child has gotten this new virus then it may be in his/her best interests to stay put with whichever parent the child is with until the child recovers and deal with make-up parent-time issues later.
Regarding school, many Utah public schools have asked children to stay home for the next several weeks in an effort to limit the spread of this disease. This is causing disputes between parents over whether their children have essentially been released for an early “Spring Break.” Based on information provided thus far, it appears the intention is temporarily transition children to an online school curriculum until it is safe to return back to a normal program. That being the case, unless that changes my view is that public school is still in “session.”
Do you have questions? Need advice? Give the experienced family law attorneys at Wiser Family Law a call today at 855-254-2600 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We are standing by to help divorced and separated parents navigate the difficulties Coronavirus is causing.