Do I Have to Exchange My Child For Timesharing During the Safer At Home Order?
The number one call that I have received since the Safer at Home Executive Order has gone into effect is… “Do I have to continue to follow my parenting plan schedule and exchange my child for timesharing with my ex-spouse?” Generally speaking, the answer is yes.
Normally, parenting plans are drafted with sufficient detail to address commonly expected occurrences and situations so that parents know what they are supposed to do when certain events occur. However, the Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event, and suffice it to say, it is highly improbable that any of the parenting plans currently in place contain language that even remotely addresses the eventualities of this situation.
In this very surreal landscape, our family’s routines have been turned upside down with school and business closures, children have been separated from extended family and friends with social distancing and stay at home mandates, and generally, life as we all know it has been changed – and for how long, nobody knows. You must remember that as stressful as all of this is on you, as a parent, it most likely is a very confusing and scary time for your child, as well. That said, if at all possible, it is important to try and maintain the timesharing schedule under your parenting plan so at least your child can have that bit of normalcy in a very abnormal situation. In so doing, it is very common for parents to have concerns about shuffling their child back and forth to environments over which they have no control. If you have concerns, you should make every effort to constructively speak with the other parent about your concerns. There is nothing wrong with asking for confirmation as to whether he/she (as well as other members of that household) has been and will continue to be complying with the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), state and local governments, to ensure the safety of your child.
Many parents have very legitimate concerns about the possible increased risk to their child when the other parent, or someone within the other parent’s household, continues to work within the community (health care, law enforcement, paramedics, grocery store clerks, etc.) due to how easily COVID-19 can be spread. If there is a situation that exists where you strongly believe that it is in your child’s best interests to deviate from the parenting plan, you should confer with the other parent, explain your reasoning, and attempt to work out an agreement with the other parent for a temporary deviation. More than ever before, both parents should try to work together to try and find a solution that best protects the health and well-being of the child, even if that means for the time being that one parent forgoes face to face timesharing until the risk is over. However, if you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent, you should consult with an attorney regarding your options BEFORE unilaterally deviating from your parenting plan, as there could be serious consequences to violating your parenting plan without due cause. While most court operations are shut down at this time due to COVID-19, telephonic hearings are available for some types of matters, and if the situation qualifies as an “emergency,” courts will entertain emergency hearings to prevent the threat of immediate harm to a child. If you believe that your current timesharing schedule is placing your child under a threat of immediate harm because of COVID-19 risks, a qualified child custody attorney can advise you as to whether your situation may qualify as an emergency.
Last, during this critical time, it is extremely important to keep an open line of communication with the other parent regarding the health and wellbeing of your child. If either you or the child develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and/or if you believe that you may have been exposed to the virus, you need to immediately advise the other parent so that both of you can determine the best course of action. Please remember that each of you may have other family members who could be impacted, as well, so honesty and timely information in the event of exposure could potentially save lives.
If you have questions about timesharing schedules or modifying a parenting plan as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, an experienced Tampa child custody Lawyer at our firm can assist you. Contact the Law Offices of Laura A. Olson, P.A. for more information.