What Does the Coronavirus Mean for Shared Parenting?
Many divorced parents in the Orlando area share child custody and regularly spend time with their minor children. In most situations involving time-sharing, the child will spend a certain amount of time each week with both parents. This type of arrangement requires that the child be transported from one parent’s residence (or a school or extracurricular activity, for example) to the other parent’s residence. While co-parenting can be stressful under normal circumstances, parents who have a time-sharing arrangement may be feeling particularly anxious about what the coronavirus spread means for that time-sharing arrangement. For instance, can one parent decide not to drop off the child with the other parent if there is reason to believe that parent has been exposed to the novel coronavirus? And is there a different answer to that question if one parent simply believes the other parent is not taking enough precautions? Or, is the answer to that question different if the other parent has tested positive for COVID-19?
According to a recent report from ABC 9 News, parents throughout Orlando and Orange County are asking these questions. Since this time is unprecedented, there are not necessarily clear answers to every question a parent might have about time-sharing and co-parenting during the pandemic. However, we can provide you with some basic information that may help to clarify some key issues concerning time-sharing during this moment.
Orange and Osceola Counties Have Ordered Parents Not to Restrict Access to Children
First, if you live in Orange County or Osceola County, you should know that the court systems have “issued an order prohibiting parents from unnecessarily restricting access to children” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, as the report explains. To be clear, parents cannot use the coronavirus spread as a justifiable reason for failing to comply with a parenting plan that is already in place in the state. Indeed, the report clarifies that “unreasonable parents can be sanctioned, lose holidays, or have to pay legal fees.”
How Shelter-in-Place or Stay-Home Orders Could Affect Parenting Plans
What should parents do if one of them lives in another city or another state? For example, what should happen if one parent lives in Orlando and the other parent lives in New York City? Shelter-in-place or stay-home orders could affect the time-sharing arrangement. For instance, if a child was in New York with the New York City-based parent when New York issued a stay-home order, it is possible and even likely that a court will allow the parent to keep the child with him or her under the expectation that travel on an airplane or train back to Florida would be extremely dangerous for the child.
That scenario would likely play out differently if one parent lives in Orlando and the other lives in Tampa. Since the child can still be safely transported in the parent’s car between Tampa and Orlando without having to come into unnecessary contact with members of the public, the time-sharing arrangement likely will be upheld. However, like we mentioned, there is no precise precedent for handling time-sharing disputes during a pandemic.
Contact an Orlando Child Custody Lawyer
As we said above, this is an unprecedented time, and many parents do not know the best way to respond to concerns about time-sharing arrangements and the coronavirus pandemic. If you have questions about your rights or obligations as a parent under Florida law at this time, one of our experienced Orlando child custody attorneys can speak with you today. Contact Anderson & Ferrin for the assistance you need.