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What if One Parent or Their Child Becomes Ill with COVID-19?

Categories: Family Law, Blog

How to handle co-parenting when the parent or child has contracted COVID-19

Question: If the other parent becomes ill with the COVID-19 virus, can I insist that his or her parenting time be suspended?

In our experience, asking for reasonable accommodations to protect the health of a child is usually more effective than demanding. Remember, if they have the virus their emotions and stress levels - and as a result their defenses - are heightened. You should kindly and calmly communicate your concerns to the other parent and attempt to reach an agreement to suspend parenting time until the virus is no longer in their system. Communicate, without accusation, the danger to the child. Offer make-up parenting time to the other parent. Offer to facilitate additional calls/FaceTime/video interaction with the child. If the sick parent insists on parenting time, take whatever action you feel best balances both the terms of the parenting plan, and the child’s best interests. Understand that the balance may be delicate and that tough decisions may need to be made.

Question: What happens if one of our children tests positive for the COVID-19 virus?

If your child is sick with the virus, it is important that you immediately communicate everything about your child’s condition to the other parent. This includes communicating the details of any emergency medical visits testing, and other medical actions. Be mindful and cautious with regard to who your child comes into contact with. It may be possible that one parent may ask to forego their parenting time with the sick child so that they, and others in their home, do not contract the virus. Be reasonable and accommodating whenever possible. Most parenting plans have language that spells out the parent’s obligations in the event medical action needs to be taken, and you must make every effort to comply with the plan’s provisions. Consult your parenting plan now, before any sickness or emergency arises, to determine how health issues must be handled.

Question: My parenting time plan calls for exchanges after school at the school. What do we do when school is closed?

First, check the language of your parenting plan or other agreement governing parenting time. Those agreements commonly include a specified time for exchanges if school is not in session. For example, your plan might say exchanges should occur “upon release from school, or at 3:00pm if no school.” If your agreement includes such language, you should make every effort to comply with that requirement. It is critical to communicate with the other parent. These are unprecedented times, and it is important to remain reasonably flexible and accommodating when it comes to exchanges. Finally, if at-home exchanges are not in your or your child’s best interests – if, for instance, there is an order of protection in place or if an at-home exchange is not safe – find a public place convenient for both parents, or close to the child’s school, to make the exchange.


About the Blog Post Author: Ilya Prokopets is a family law attorney at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. He, and other attorneys in the family law group, assist clients with sophisticated matters and unique cases that may arise in Arizona dissolutions.