The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in several family-related challenges, especially for divorced parents sharing custody of their children. Courts throughout Arizona understand how difficult it can be to follow an existing parenting plan; however, they encourage parents to keep up with their plan as closely as possible.
When it comes to entering new custody-related orders due to an emergency, the courts are still available to handle such cases. Yet, all parents must first try to cooperate and resolve any issues.
The following is an overview of the most frequently asked questions about parenting time in Arizona during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Question: What happens if the other parent refuses to comply with the existing parenting plan?
Answer: If a parent doesn’t have good cause to deviate from the parenting plan, he/she could be held in contempt of court and subject to fines and other penalties, such as jail time. If a parent is supposed to spend time with the child, but he/she is with the other parent, the other parent must return the child. Furthermore, a parent who has sole legal decision-making is not allowed to change the parenting plan without a court ruling.
Q: Is the COVID-19 outbreak a good excuse to deny parenting time?
A: No. Unless the court orders otherwise, both parents have a duty to care for their children and make daily parenting decisions – including local, state, and federal directives – when they are in their care.
Q: What if my child is on an extended spring/summer break?
A: Although schools are closed, the parenting time schedule should be followed as if the kids are still in school based on the district’s academic calendar. The closure of schools does not lead to an extension of any vacation time or weekend.
Q: What if I or the other parent is diagnosed with COVID-19?
A: Whether you or the other parent has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or were around people who have been infected; self-quarantine protects all parties. If both parents agree, they could modify their orders on a temporary basis by suspending parent time for up to 14 days, aligning with CDC guidelines.
Q: What about parenting time in public places or supervised parenting time?
A: Since you must avoid public places where people frequently touch objects or surfaces (e.g. playgrounds, parks, picnic tables, etc.), parenting time that is scheduled to take place in public can be done either in a designated area while social distancing and avoid common-contact surfaces or through phone or videoconferencing. If a supervisor is unavailable, parents could either find an alternate supervisor or have the custodial parent supervise through virtual contact.
Q: If I let my child stay with the other parent longer than scheduled, can I get makeup time?
A: If a parent lives in another state or country, parents must work together to protect their children and schedule makeup parenting time for a later date, ideally once the stay-at-home order has been lifted.
If you are dealing with a child custody issue in Yuma, contact Bowman, Smith & Kallen today at (928) 433-2355. We are open and available to help current and prospective clients during this trying time.