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Parenting Time, Visitation and Child Custody in the Era of COVID-19 the Novel Coronavirus

Parenting time exchanges and concerns about your child’s health while in the other parent’s household for visitation or parenting time can be challenging during the COVID-19 coronavirus isolation, quarantine and shutdown periods.

There are some basic concepts to keep in mind concerning how divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities (custody) laws and parenting time (visitation) laws work in relation to COVID-19 coronavirus isolation, quarantine and shutdown concerns.

Compliance With Governmental Emergency Orders

Most or all counties and/or cities and the State of Colorado have issued emergency orders that identify the law concerning contact, distancing, travel, and other items. Go to the Colorado government web sites (state and local) on a daily basis to keep up with the emergency orders. Please click here to see the most up to date Colorado “Stay at Home Public Health Order.”

You Must Comply With Existing Parenting Time Orders

Unless the parties agree otherwise, or the Court makes new orders, existing parenting time orders remain in effect. A parent cannot simply decide not to exchange the child with the other parent and cut off the other parent’s visitation (parenting time). Doing so can lead to contempt of court charges and other legal problems, which may include jail, fines, posting a bond, paying the other side’s attorney fees, costs & expenses, and other remedies.

The Mere Possibility That the Other Parent May be Exposed to or Have COVID-19 is Generally NOT Considered a Reason to Cut Off the Other Parent’s Visitation

Courts are supposed to make orders based on facts, not speculation and fear. An emergency motion to restrict parenting time based on fear that the other parent might be exposed to COVID-19 also known as the novel coronavirus will likely be denied. For example, if a mother says that because the father is a doctor, physician assistant, nurse or patient registrar at a hospital and that the father is exposed to cordonavirus, that alone would probably not justify cutting off parenting time or modifying parenting time. On the other hand, if the father who is a doctor, physician assistant, nurse or patient registrar at a hospital has tested positive or is showing active symptoms of the coronavirus, the Court is more likely to say that is an emergency.

Parents Should Try to Talk Reasonably About What to Do

Unless a restraining order (protection order) precludes discussion or some other order precludes discussion between parents, parents should try to talk with each other and figure out how to handle things jointly during this coronavirus period. Remember, your children pick up on what is happening in the world, and they pick up on how you and the other parent talk to each other and interact with each other. They look to you for reassurance and leadership. A team approach will usually be in the best interests of the child.

Parents Have Constitutional Rights to Care for Their Children

Courts have not suspended constitutional rights during this coronavirus period. Parents have a fundamental, constitutional right to maintain a relationship with their children. While the courts can put restrictions on parenting time & visitation, there are limits on the court’s authority.

Supervised Parenting Time

Some parents are only allowed to visit their children under supervision in a supervision location (for example, The Karlis Center; Children’s First of the Rockies; for Supervision in Denver). Those facilities are or may be closed for supervised parenting time / visitation. Parents should consider allowing mobile supervision with a supervisor. Parents should consider whether to allow supervision to occur in a home, in a hotel lobby, a park or one of the few remaining public places that are open, as long as the supervision will not violate a governmental order.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 novel coronavirus situation calls for parents to come together and be a united front for their children. It is not a time to allow fears or other motivations to try to limit parenting time with the other parent.

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