We’re almost a year to the month that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. So you probably know by now that no matter what the current health directive order is in Minnesota or Wisconsin, a judge will make you follow your custody agreement.
But whether you came to your custody agreement by way of a court case, or other means such as mediation or a parenting consultation, the health, wellbeing, and safety of your children is your first priority. And the only person who cares more about your child than you is your child’s other parent.
That’s not to say there won’t be some concerns along the way. What if, say, your ex was exposed to a positive case of COVID-19? What if you or your child was exposed? What if any of you are displaying symptoms? And even if the courts mandate that you follow your custody agreement, how can you complete the necessary travel, pickup and drop-offs while staying as safe and healthy as possible? How do you know your child is as safe visiting your co-parent as they are at your home?
COVID-19 may have caused a need for a temporary change in your custody plan. If your ex is requesting this temporary change, you may not be so sure. Contact us for a parenting consultation today — it’s a quicker, easier way to hash these concerns out than going to court, while still having a Minnesota custody lawyer on your side. It also lets you sit down with your ex and a legal expert, and discuss your concerns.
The one good thing about COVID-19 is that we can do all of this virtually on a video call. This saves you from having to drive to an attorney’s office or courthouse while keeping the comfort of a good custody lawyer. Whatever you do, do not refuse visitations to your ex. You may possibly be held in contempt of court or lose your visitation rights altogether. Read on for some things you can do.
- Children have been known to fare a COVID-19 diagnosis fairly well. However, children who have asthma, other lung disease or are severely immuno-compromised still pose a high risk for developing not just a more severe case of COVID-19, but more severe complications afterward as well.
Talk to your family doctor or pediatrician if you’re concerned about your child traveling to their other parent’s home due to health issues. If your doctor agrees, set up a parenting consultation to discuss temporarily suspending in-person visits. Bring along the doctor’s note or send it by email if the consultation is held virtually.
Offer to establish other means for visitation: daily phone calls, Facetime or Zoom chats. Your child may also communicate with their other parent by text, and even by sending cards and letters. Did your child complete an art project in school? Send it to your ex to hang on their refrigerator.
If you’re the other parent, make sure this agreement remains temporary. You may word your custody arrangement to state, “Visitations will return to their previous arrangement after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.” Maybe this is too vague, and you’d rather dictate that a specific low number of positive cases be reached. Maybe you agree to have another parenting consultation altogether when you reach that point or a future date.
- If you can’t agree even via a parenting consultation, and your child’s health is truly at risk, it may be time to ask your local family court to intervene. In this true emergency, you may be able to obtain an emergency temporary child custody order. Ask us about which steps to take, and know you have a Minnesota custody lawyer on your side.
- There are other points to consider in your custody agreement during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, maybe you have begun working from home, while your child is enrolled in virtual learning, and neither of you leave the house unless absolutely necessary.
It may be disheartening to then see a photo of your ex in a large group of friends, let alone knowing your child is headed to a visitation with them this weekend. On the contrary, one parent may feel like their child is too isolated during COVID-19 and needs more social interaction with their peers.
All of this is more reason to schedule a parenting consultation and discuss your current custody arrangement with a custody lawyer and expert. These were not factors you prepared to discuss at the time of your original custody agreement.
- To visit or not to visit may be the least of some parents’ concerns, especially 11 months from when initial shutdowns occurred. Co-parents may disagree on masks, or at what age their child should wear one (wearing a mask is mandated in Minnesota and Wisconsin, in all indoor public places at all times, for everyone ages 5 and older).
As a vaccination for COVID-19 becomes more available, parents may also disagree on vaccinations, or specifically disagree on the COVID-19 vaccination.
How each parent addresses these issues is something that will likely come up in your custody agreement. These are all valid points to bring to a parenting consultation, and good points to discuss with your co-parent in the presence of a trusted custody lawyer.
But as Dr. Jann Blackstone, a retired child custody mediator for the Superior Court of California and co-author of “Co-Parenting Through Separation and Divorce: Putting Your Children First” told a Boston public radio station recently, “I can tell you firsthand that the courts don’t want to raise your children.”
Besides, she added, “If you can demonstrate firsthand how to negotiate in front of your child, then the child feels safe going back and forth.”
Contact us with any questions about custody agreements!