Co-Parenting during COVID-19
Co-Parenting during COVID-19
By Taylor Lemick
COVID-19 has presented families with a myriad of new parenting challenges, but divorced parents who are co-parenting during COVID-19 face even greater concerns. Adjusting to remote learning, social distancing, and implementing “new norms” can be exceptionally challenging when coupled with an ongoing need for transportation between houses and possible additional medical care needs.
Beginning May 1, 2020, Illinois will be enforcing a modified and extended Stay At Home Order that will continue to limit Illinois residents’ interactions with family, friends, and community members. During this unsettling time, divorced parents or couples in the process of getting a divorce need to understand the implications for their custody agreements. Here are some answers to common questions about how the Executive Order will impact parenting time.
Does Illinois’ Stay At Home Order impact my custody schedule?
Generally, NO. The State permits travel for the purposes of complying with existing court orders under the Executive Order, including travel specifically for the purpose of facilitating custody agreements.
Section 14 of the original Illinois’ Stay At Home Order has a definition of “Essential Travel,” and states that all travel must comply with social distancing requirements. Essential travel includes travel required by law enforcement or court order, including transporting children pursuant to a custody agreement.
The Hon. Grace G. Dickler, the presiding judge of the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, provided some direction to Cook County parents when she issued General Order 2020 D 8 Parenting Time Guidelines. Judge Dickler advised that everyone use common sense and not look for technicalities to keep them from abiding by custody agreements and court-ordered parenting plans. Other counties have also issued county-specific guidelines.
Are there any Exceptions?
When co-parenting during COVID-19, the priority for both parents is to keep their child safe and healthy.
Courts may find exceptions where the child is required to travel a great distance to the other parent’s home, making several stops along the way, thus risking exposure to the virus. Another exception is where your child would be at a greater risk of exposure to the virus by being in the other parent’s home. This would include, but is not limited to: the other parent being a healthcare worker or other type of first responder, the other parent (or other people in the home) experiencing symptoms and/or testing positive for the virus, or the other parent not following social distancing guidelines and/or the Stay In Place Orders.
There is no simple or correct answer in this situation. It is best to communicate and cooperate with the other parent to find a collaborative solution that prioritizes your child’s best interest.
Can I bring custody issues to court during the Stay At Home Order?
Courts are generally open to hear EMERGENCY matters related to custody issues.
A list of “Do’s” During the Stay At Home Order:
- DO keep your child’s safety your number one priority. If possible, communicate and cooperate with your child’s other parent the best you can, even if that results in one parent temporarily losing parenting time.
- DO comply with court orders while practicing social distancing and isolation.
- DO inform each other about any treatment the child(ren) receives and follow the court-ordered parenting plan regarding decision-making responsibilities for subsequent medical care.
- DO forgo your right to parenting time if you (or someone in your home) has tested positive for COVID-19, so that the child is not exposed to the virus.
- DO honor the custody schedule and transport children to the other parent. DO NOT deny them their parenting time. Doing so could result in potential legal issues.
- DO document your experiences in a detailed log if you feel you are not getting your rightful amount of parenting time so you can seek a remedy from the courts. Eventually, you can make up missed parenting time rather than endanger your child in the ongoing pandemic.
- DO help the child with remote learning if you work from home. If you do not but your spouse does, ask them to help.
- DO get creative! Use FaceTime, Google Voice, Zoom, text messages, email, and more to keep the lines of communication open during this time.
Remember that the best solutions to any issues you may have as you are co-parenting during COVID-19 are prioritizing your child and using collaboration, communication, and flexibility. If you have questions regarding your custody agreement or parenting time, we have answers for you. Call the attorneys at Gardi & Haught today or fill out our form by clicking on our free case evaluation button below!