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Does the Coronavirus or COVID-19 Quarantine Parenting Time As Well?

By: Philip C. Sheward

We are certainly living in unique circumstances at the present time.  The coronavirus pandemic, or COVID-19, has drastically changed how many Hoosiers are currently living our lives.  Some of us have or will be diagnosed with the virus.  Some of us may have it already and just don’t know it.  Some of us know we have been exposed and are either voluntarily separating ourselves from society or being required to quarantine.  On March 23, 2020, Indiana’s Governor, Eric Holcomb, issued an Executive Order requiring Hoosiers to “Stay at Home” other than for certain defined “essential” activities or for people who are considered “essential” employees.  There are many questions to be asked and answered during this time.  One of the most basic questions is, “Should parenting time continue if we’ve been ordered to stay at home?”  Generally speaking, the answer to that question is, “yes.”

First, we should all recognize that maintaining what is in a child’s best interest is to be at the forefront of a parent’s mind.  Second, we should keep in mind that a public crisis is bad enough without some people using that crisis as an excuse to be opportunistic for selfish reasons.  Third, communicating with your co-parent during times like this is key, and in the best interest of children, as is a bit of flexibility.  Finally, know that, at least as of the time of this posting, traveling to follow a court order relative to custody is considered to be “essential” travel.

Sometimes a non-intact family can have a hard time remembering that foremost, we are to act in a way that is best for our children, not “winning” or getting the other parent back for a past offense.  Remember, that generally, it is best for a child to have a regular and meaningful relationship with both parents.  A pandemic does not change this reality.  Parents should not use the coronavirus as an excuse to deny the other parent their parenting time.  When the court system is back to full functionality, judges will not look kindly on parents who are found to be playing games.

It is always important for co-parents to be communicative with one another, but in times like this, there is another layer of communication that is necessary.  If you have concerns about parenting time, you should share those concerns with your co-parent.  You should discuss sanitation, potential viral exposure, quarantine issues, employment concerns, home-schooling issues, etc.  It is certainly foreseeable that there will be times when this pandemic could make parenting time problematic.  Co-parents should calmly and reasonably discuss these concerns with each other, and then do what is best for their children.  Being flexible with one another, rather than rigid, is recommended.

Finally, Governor Holcomb’s “Stay at Home” order does recognize that travel associated with a custody order is “essential” travel.  Think of it this way: if you’re allowed to go to the grocery store, your child is going to be permitted to see their other parent.  That said, things can change quickly, so it is recommended that you stay abreast of the government’s directives during this difficult time.

While it is natural to be unnerved or anxious about this public health crisis, particularly as it impacts our children, we should not panic or be rash.  We should do what is best for our children.  If you have questions about how to arrive at conclusions about what is best in your situation, the attorneys at Allen Wellman McNew Harvey, LLP, are prepared to help.

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