Over the last few weeks, as we see national statistics for COVID-19 infections hitting all-time highs, it is imperative that parents, guardians and other parenting partners maintain a heightened awareness and make their best efforts to communicate with their co-parenting partners and children about COVID-19 and their holiday schedules and related travel. The following is a list of do’s and don’ts for dealing with the custody of your minor children over Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the New Year and any other holidays that may be listed on the holiday schedule in your parenting plan or custody order.
- Keep the other parent informed of any knowledge you have pertaining to exposure of you or any member of your household, workplace or a person that you have regular contact with to someone having COVID-19, exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or recently having been tested for COVID-19 and awaiting the test results.
- Keep the other parent, guardian or parenting partner informed of any COVID-19 symptoms you have observed in your minor child or children.
- Regularly communicate with the non-custodial parent to keep them informed about the COVID-19 issues and concerns you may have in as calm a fashion as possible.
- Consult with your state’s orders for information for travelers. In Pennsylvania, you can access the information online. You can also review the Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health for Mitigation Relating travel.
- Observe the recommended guidelines for mask-wearing and social distancing, even if you do not personally believe in them.
- Be sensitive to your own health, and the health of your child or children, and seek appropriate medical attention when necessary or appropriate.
- Review any policies specifically related to the impact of COVID-19 on custody orders for the family court in the county in which your case is being handled.
- If you are represented by counsel, speak with your attorney when you are in doubt about how to handle your latest issue or concern related to COVID-19, your holiday custody schedule and the effectuation of same.
- Communicate with your co-parent or parenting partner about any of the above issues in writing (text or e-mail shall suffice) whenever possible, so that you have a clear record of discussing these issues.
- Act reasonably and do everything in your control to shield your children from being put in the middle of any disputes involving you and the other party.
- Strictly follow the letter of your custody order or parenting plan unless you and the other parent or parenting partner formally agree to make modifications in writing to same.
- Offer reasonable make-up time to the other parent or parenting partner whenever possible if they need to forego their scheduled time due to taking the appropriate precautionary measures for protecting your child/children and yourself from exposure to COVID-19.
- Do not keep your symptoms and/or positive test results a secret from your co-parent or custody partner or intentionally delay timely advising them of same.
- Do not disregard the other parent’s feelings or concerns about COVID-19, even if you are not in agreement with same.
- Do not knowingly expose your child or children to individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the required quarantine periods being observed.
- Do not ignore your or your child’s symptoms of COVID-19 or poor health in general.
- Do not disregard the guidelines of your state or local city related to COVID-19.
- Do not ignore or fail to respond timely to communication efforts from the other parent or parenting partner with respect to the health and wellbeing of your child or children while they are in your care.
- Do not take matters into your own hands when there is reason to believe medical assistance is necessary.
- Do not disregard any specific terms and provisions related to traveling with your child or children during the holidays and year round.
- Do not refuse to respond to the other parent’s or parenting partner’s reasonable request for information related to your child or children and their travel itinerary and COVID-19 concerns.
- Do not disregard the fact that the other parent or parenting partner may need to give up part of their regularly scheduled time due to COVID-19 precautions and will want you to allow for reasonable make-up time for time lost due to same.
- Do not make promises to your child or children that you have no intention of fulfilling or that are made to try to win them over from the other parent.
- Do not speak poorly of the other parent or parenting partner, their family members and their beliefs regarding COVID-19, or in general, that conflict with your own.
The above lists may seem obvious to many, but there many people involved in custody matters who need these important pointers. These suggestions will go a long way to promote the best interests, health and welfare of your child and/or children during these most challenging times for parents/parenting partners and the children they share.
Give the best gift you can give to your child/children and your co-parenting partner without spending a dime. Rise above it all and do the right thing by following these holiday travel and COVID-19 do’s and not giving in to the don’ts. Have a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous parenting holiday season.
The COVID-19 Task Force at Klehr Harrison stands ready to assist you in your business and legal needs. We will continue to provide additional information and guidance as the COVID-19 situation develops.
Author David Steerman is a partner and the head of the family law practice group within the litigation department at Klehr Harrison.
The information and material in this alert have been prepared for informational purposes only. The information and material in this alert do not represent legal advice. Your receipt and/or use of this alert does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP. Information you send to Klehr Harrison via the law firm’s website or by e-mail will not be considered privileged or attorney-client communications unless and until a formal written agreement for legal representation between an authorized representative of this law firm and you are signed. Examples of prior results do not constitute a guarantee of a similar outcome in other matters.