The onset of COVID-19 impacted us all on multiple levels across the globe. The timeline of events that led to the discovery of the coronavirus will forever shape how we view and respond to infectious diseases. In the United States, more than 44 million Americans lost their jobs and over 140,000 people have died from the virus as of this writing. U.S. citizens witnessed how one confirmed coronavirus case in Washington in January soon launched into a public health emergency and national lockdown. This lockdown marked the first quarantine order issued by the federal government in over 50 years.
Families dealing with the quarantine order had to face new challenges regarding child custody and visitation rights amidst the pandemic. Separated and divorced parents had to determine how to keep their child healthy during this time and whether splitting time between parents and households was safe.
Due to the confusion that quickly spread regarding child custody arrangements during COVID-19, we decided to create a frequently asked question guide to provide you with answers. We did this because during an international public health crisis, the last thing you should have to worry about is how to spend time with your child.
Has COVID-19 Affected Child Custody and Visitation Orders?
You are still legally required to follow your court-ordered child custody and visitation arrangements during the coronavirus. If you are concerned that co-parenting would put your child at risk during COVID-19, you may be able to file an emergency motion to restrict parenting time. This is handled on a case-by-case basis, and you would need to prove that the other parent tested positive for COVID-19 and that co-parenting time would put your child in imminent danger.
How Do I Effectively Co-Parent During a Pandemic?
Co-parenting during COVID-19 with social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place is no easy feat. To further complicate co-parenting, Colorado’s Protect Our Neighbors phase allows communities that fulfill certain safety requirements to have less restrictions placed on them. What does this mean for families sharing child custody? Essentially, it means there are different COVID-19 regulations for every single community in Colorado based on the pre-cautions each one has taken to protect its residents from the virus.
Here are some helpful tips on how to co-parent during the coronavirus:
- Follow your court-ordered arrangements.
- Understand your state and local orders. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment and The Colorado State Emergency Operations Center are both excellent resources to learn about COVID-19 information.
- Communicate effectively and transparently with your child during the pandemic.
- Stay socially connected while physically distanced with virtual meetups.
Should You Adjust Your Child’s Visitation Schedule During COVID-19?
As co-parents it is important to determine what is best for the child during this time. Unfortunately, there are not many pandemic co-parenting resources at our disposal, so you must rely on your own best judgment here. You can address the following information with your ex-spouse though.
Here are some key considerations that might help co-parents in the event they need to adjust child custody and visitation arrangements (remember to consult with an attorney beforehand and do not violate a court-issued order) during the pandemic:
- Is anyone in the household an essential worker or at increased risk of contracting the virus (over the age of 60, immunocompromised, or dealing with an underlying medical condition)?
- Is it in the child’s best interest to follow a co-parenting plan that requires him/her to constantly move from one home to the other?
- Is one parent better equipped to home school the child? For example, is one parent a teacher?
- Who else resides in the home and how much contact do they have with the public?
- Does one home have access to more outdoor space where the child can play outside and exercise safely?
My Ex-Spouse Refuses to Let Me See My Child Due to COVID-19. What Can I Do?
If your spouse refuses to comply with any court-ordered child custody and visitation arrangement, he/she runs the risk of being held in contempt of court. This could have severe consequences, including potential jail time. Consult with your state court or a child custody attorney from our firm for additional assistance.
Are the Courts Open in Colorado? Can I Attend an In-Person Meeting to Adjust my Child Custody Arrangement?
Colorado has limited its in-person court proceedings as of March 2020. This is subject to change so be sure to visit the Colorado Judicial branch’s website to stay updated on COVID-19 announcements and closures. Most cases are being handled virtually right now, allowing you to make your court appearance without the need to physically enter the courtroom.
Our Award-Winning Law Firm in Denver Can Help
COVID-19’s impact drastically affected co-parenting families across the U.S. If you have questions about your child custody or visitation orders during this time, you are not alone. Seek out legal counsel you can count on and get in touch with one of our lawyers today.
If you need support with your child custody case during COVID-19, contact our office online or call us at (303) 225-3343.