As COVID-19 begins another surge across the nation, New York is not immune. Although it has not hit some of the record highs as other states, it is still facing large numbers of new cases. Some of the surge has been controlled by so-called “vaccine passports,” where you must show your vaccination status before entering certain establishments.
The rising numbers of cases and concerns about potential new lockdowns bring many parents back to how they felt in 2020. Divorced parents, in particular, are once again asking themselves how to manage their parenting plan amid the pandemic and the Delta variant of the virus.
Here are four tips that can help you manage child visitation during the surge.
- Work Out a New, Temporary Plan
For the most part, courts are happy to allow parents to modify a plan as they see fit. If you and your ex want to permanently change a plan, you should submit your new plan to the courts for record. This can also work for a temporary modification.
For divorced parents who can work together, feel free to draw up a new agreement yourselves. Using the original plan as a basis, decide exactly which portions need to change and for how long. Be as specific as you can. Deciding to change the plan “until the surge dies down” is too nebulous. Either of you may have different definitions of what “dying down” means, and this can lead to disputes. It is best to come up with a date instead. Change the plan for exactly two months, for example. If the two-month deadline approaches and you are still uncomfortable with going back to the original plan, you can extend the temporary plan for exactly one more month. Hard deadlines are going to be much easier to manage than something like, “until we are comfortable going back to the original plan.”
Put your new plan in writing and submit it to the court. Doing so will make it official, and it will keep you both obligated to follow it.
- Obey the Original Plan or Court Order
Unfortunately, not all divorced parents will be able to negotiate and create a new plan. There is a reason you divorced, and part of that could be a complete inability to work together. If it becomes clear that you cannot reach a new agreement, simply follow the original plan.
Courts expect plans to be followed. Even if the original parenting plan was created by both parents, it was finalized and officialized by the courts. They don’t take deviations lightly, and either parent can be held in contempt for breaking the plan without authorization.
If you are worried about the coronavirus, this is a completely valid, understandable fear. You may be tempted to keep your children tucked away in your home, protecting them from the elements. Doing so, however, opens you up to legal problems. It’s best to take as many precautions as you can, follow the original court orders, and trust your ex to make the right decisions.
If your ex is blocking your visitation due to COVID-19 concerns, you have the right to take action. You can alert the courts that you are being withheld your rights, and they can manage the situation from there. However, you should take this step only as a last resort. Remember, your ex is only worried about the children and their safety. Try to reach out with compassion and understanding, helping to assuage their fears. Let them know that you are also being cautious, but you need to have time with your children.
- What if Someone in the Family Catches COVID-19?
Typically, an illness or emergency allows for temporary changes to parenting plans. If anyone in the immediate family, from parents to children to stepparents, is diagnosed with COVID-19, you should lock everyone into position. Whoever has the kids should keep them, even if it was the other parent who contracted the virus. By now, we know that COVID typically takes about 14 days to pass through the system and no longer be contagious. After two weeks, you can resume the normal schedule. If either parent is attempting to break quarantine, make sure to talk to your lawyer or the court. The court may be understanding of the situation and allow quarantine to continue.
- What if the Other Parent Is Being Reckless?
You may be in a situation where the other parent is taking no special precautions. They refuse to get vaccinated; they don’t wear masks or require the kids to; and they take the kids out to crowded places. Unfortunately, there are no good answers for how to handle this. You can beg and plead for them to be more careful, but they may refuse to do so. By law, the custodial parent is “in charge.” As long as they are not overtly abusing or mistreating the children, they are free to raise the kids how they see fit. You could argue that by being careless, they are mistreating the children, but this argument is not likely to stand in court.
If your ex is breaking legal mandates through their behavior, such as ignoring mandated lockdowns, you could potentially report them to the authorities. However, this is more of a criminal matter than a family law issue. You would essentially be accusing them of a crime, which will carry ramifications of its own. Authorities can deal with legal consequences without your involvement. Ultimately, your best bet is to continue to follow the parenting plan, take your own precautions, and make sure everyone in your home is regularly tested.
For renegotiation or modification of a parenting plan, you can trust us to help. Our number is (347) 378-1170, and you can contact us online.