In reaction to the swiftly spreading COVID-19 pandemic, the Colorado’s Stay at Home Order has been issued. These are unprecedented times for all of us, and there are unique challenges for parents who share custody of their children.
What should I do as a Parent?
Work with the other parent in a cooperative manner. Good co-parenting can resolve many challenges parents face during Colorado’s Stay at Home Order. Engage the other parent with your custody concerns, after thinking through what is important to you and the potential solutions to address what is needed. Consider reducing the frequency at which children are exchanged, or forgoing exchanges until the Stay at Home Order has passed and the risks to everyone’s health is reduced, as options to discuss with the other parent.
Your Parenting Plan:
Review your parenting plan, all of it. Understand what it requires and allows. Keep a printed copy for easy reference. When reviewing your parenting plan during this Colorado Stay at Home Order, consider:
- Does your parenting plan require child custody exchanges in a public place that is no longer available? How can you and your co-parent work around that?
- Are there provisions in the event of illness of the child or parent that impact parenting time?
- Are parents entitled to telephone or video contact with the child?
- What needs to be communicated regarding the child’s health?
- Can a parent exercise vacation parenting time for more time with the child?
- Are there provisions to making up lost parenting time due to illness, activities, vacation times?
- Can a parent decline parenting time?
- What provisions does the plan make for facilitating consensus? Is there a mediation requirement?
Once you understand what your parenting plan requires, identify the potential problems that may exist, any ambiguities or deficiencies, and then look to possible solutions for your unique circumstances. Always Co-Parent when possible.
What if Custody is Declined or Denied?
Co-Parent, when possible:
Assess the circumstances and look at what is reasonable given the issues you face. Look at the science, your parenting plan, any general “stay at home” orders, the circumstances around you and your co-parent. Try to be objective when considering matters. Be creative, look for solutions that could occur in the future, like make up parenting time. (Be cautious when agreeing to make up parenting time, as some children, for reasons of age or other issues, should not be away from the primary parent for extended durations - pandemics excluded).
Contact an Attorney:
Any family law attorney worth their salt will tell their parent / client in no uncertain terms to always consider what is best for their child. Any family law attorney should also advise the parent as to the legal options available to each parent (offensively and defensively), including: contempt of court, emergency motions to restrict parenting time and motions to enforce parenting time orders, also known as motions concerning parenting time disputes.
Parents will have multiple legal options when parenting time is denied or declined. The best approach to their legal matter will depend on the unique circumstances each parent faces.
What Can I Expect going Forward?
The stay at home order will be lifted and life as normal will resume. Parents will still have to co-parent, and agreements may not always be reached. The Courts may have a backlog when the stay at home order is lifted, and some cases will be prioritized on the court’s docket to be heard sooner than later, such as motions concerning parenting time disputes.
For now, continue social distancing and working from home if possible. Try to co-parent as best as you can, while acknowledging these are unique times for everyone and continue to focus on what is best for your child!