Just as the world appeared to be getting back to normal, the COVID-19 pandemic came back with a vengeance. Another surge has hit, and the number of cases climbs. Additionally, the Delta variant has made the virus more contagious, and even vaccinated citizens have experienced “breakthroughs,” contracting the illness after receiving their shots.
The response has certainly been mixed. Many citizens have gone back into quarantine, taking extra precautions and staying home. Others have chosen to behave as normal, going out unmasked and, for some, unvaccinated. This has led to infighting across the nation.
All of this affects co-parenting as well. Many of the divisions that take place in our culture also take place in our families. There may be two parents with vastly different ideas on how to handle the pandemic, creating strife for the children. Even when parents agree, there are questions of safety in transporting children between homes when sharing custody. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, our goal is to help keep the peace inside a family of divorce. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you navigate child visitation during COVID-19.
Always Default to the Original Parenting Plan
Think back to when your custody plan was created. Regardless of its origins, the plan was processed and approved through the legal system. Ultimately, it is a legally binding agreement, and the state expects you to follow it.
Do not attempt to supersede or go around these orders. Whatever you believe about your child’s safety or best interests, the court believes that those decisions were already made. You cannot block another parent from visitation rights. Doing so can get you into serious legal trouble, like being held in contempt of court.
Remember that the other parent is “in charge” when they have the children. They are the custodial parent, and the state allows them to behave as such. Even if you are concerned about their lack of precautions, they are making the rules when they have the kids. Do your best to gently encourage more cautious behavior; regularly test yourself and the kids; and allow the other parent to be in charge when they have the children.
Working Out a Temporary Modification
If you can work with your ex, and you trust each other to make the right decisions, you can create a new, temporary plan. It could include regular testing, decreased visits, fewer outings, or whatever you both agree is best for the kids.
When you make such a plan, work in a “sunset clause.” In legal terms, a sunset clause ends at a specific date. In terms of your plan, it reverts to its original agreements after a specified time. Creating a sunset clause keeps everything clear. Nebulous stopping points will not work. For example, writing that the changes will be in effect “until the surge ends” can create problems. Each parent may have different definitions of what that means, and it’s hard to rely on media outlets that tend to report things differently. Choose a specific date, and stick to it. When that date arrives, if you both feel the temporary agreement should be extended, choose another end date. Keep everything above board and above reproach.
After working out your temporary plan, put it in writing, and submit it to the courts.
What if Someone Catches the Virus?
Courts usually allow temporary alterations in the case of emergencies and illnesses. If anyone in the family, from a child to a stepparent, catches COVID-19, freeze everyone into place for 14 days. No matter who has the kids or whose weekend it is, just keep everyone where they are.
Doing so may leave the custodial parent in a bind. Perhaps they are still single, in a smaller house, have a lower income, etc. In that case, help them out if you can. Send them groceries, medical supplies for the kids, toys, games, and whatever else they need. There are many delivery services you can use, or you can drive the supplies over and drop them off at the door. If you’re the one who is sick, leave the supplies at your door, and the other parent can pick them up. Remember, even though you are no longer together, you are ultimately on the same team.
Alternative Divorce Solutions can help with custody modifications, both temporary and permanent. If you need help making alterations, reach out to our office today at (949) 558-2624. You can also contact us online.