Parenting Plan Rules During the Covid-19 Crisis
Hi, this is Billie Tarascio from Modern Law, and I have another update for you. The Pinal or the Pima County Family Court has issued some guidelines for parenting time, and even though we are not in Pima County, Pima County is Tucson, I think that the guidance in this memorandum is really helpful and so I want to go through it because it asks, it answers questions like, what to do if my parenting time is supervised, what to do if my parenting time is supposed to take place in a public place, what to do if one parent refuses to talk about safety guidelines amid the COVID-19 crisis. The guide is really helpful and we’re going to go through it one step at a time.
First, this is the first premise that applies to every single parent. You must comply with any existing parenting time order unless there is an agreement otherwise or unless an order is modified. A parent who refuses to comply with a parenting time order is subject to legal penalties that may include being held in contempt, fines, or sanctions. A parent who is currently exercising parenting time or who has the physical custody of a child and you’re not entitled to it right now under court-ordered parenting time schedules must immediately return the child to the permitted parent, and even if you have sole legal decision making, it does not mean, according to the Pima County courthouse, that you are allowed to withhold parenting time. The same thing applies for a parent with final legal decision making. You do not have the right to keep your child away from the other parent even if you don’t agree with the way that that parent is handling the COVID-19 crisis.
It very specifically says denial of parenting time due to the COVID-19 pandemic is not acceptable. Unless otherwise ordered, the court considers each parent to be fit to care for their children, make decisions regarding the day to day aspects of parenting time, and that includes the decision of following federal, state, local directives such as social distancing, safety-related measures and hand-washing.
That is the first in this series. As you continue watching, we’ll go over the guidelines on what is spring break? What is summer break? What is, well, how do you interpret the schedules? Do you have to put your kids on a plane? Each video in this series will follow, covering these topics.
Part 2- Should I follow the school schedule or break schedule?
Hi there, Billie Tarascio from Modern Law and we are going to dive into part two of the guidelines from Pima County and let’s get that. Sorry for the delay. So we talked about what happens in video one if you deny parenting time. We talked about the assumption that all parenting plans currently in place must be followed. So if you’re attempted to withhold your child because you have sole legal decision making, you’re not allowed to do so.
The next section is on the definition of spring break, summer break and vacation or holidays. When the schools are closed, parenting time should continue as if the children are still attending school. So right now, you don’t go into your summer schedule, you don’t go into your spring break vacation schedule, you consider this the school schedule and that’s really helpful because schools are closed, which means our parenting plan say have one plan for spring break and one plan for summer break and that plan might be very different from the plan during the school year. So unless there’s an agreement, otherwise you follow the parenting plan that is in place for the school exchanges.
Now, if your parenting plan doesn’t say whether or not the exchanges are supposed to happen. If they say they’re supposed to happen at school, then you’ve got an issue because does parenting time begin at 8:00 AM when school starts or 7:30 AM when school starts or does parenting time begin at three o’clock when school is out? Hopefully, your parenting plan says, or you can get an agreement that is the way that you should treat this a particular period of time. Next up, we’re going to talk about what happens to parenting plans if you have a positive confirmation of a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Part 3: What to do if a parent or household member has been exposed to Covid-19
The next question is particularly important. What happens if someone gets a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or if you’ve been exposed, you’ve been tested and you are positively diagnosed as having the coronavirus?
At this point the guidelines changed a little bit. So up until now, the guidelines have been you need to follow the parenting plan regardless of your personal opinions on whether or not the parenting plan is appropriate under the circumstances. So self-quarantine is for the protection of all parties, especially if you have been diagnosed.
Parents, this is what the guidelines say from [Pima 00:00:41] County: Parents should continue agreeing to modify existing orders or temporarily including whether to suspend parenting time for a period of 14 days for any person who tests positive for COVID-19 or shares a household with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. That’s number one.
Number two: has been advised by a government official that the parent or someone with whom the parent shares a household has been exposed to COVID-19 or has been directed by government officials to self-quarantine or three: has traveled internationally within the last 14 days consistent with the CDC’s global COVID-19 pandemic notice. If parenting time is temporarily suspended, the parent affected should be allowed liberal virtual contact with the children via video conference or telephone, so FaceTime, Zoom, make sure that they’ve got time to talk, and the court may order suspended parenting time to be made up when requested and when appropriate.
So this is happening a lot. Someone that I know has a spouse who’s a nurse and the nurse was informed that a patient she worked with tested positive. It doesn’t mean she’s tested positive, but it means that someone in that household has been exposed, and so the guidelines at this point suggest, strongly suggest, that parents work together to agree to a 14 day suspension of parenting time if someone within the household has been exposed to COVID-19 or has gotten a diagnosis of COVID-19 and at that point, parenting time should be encouraged deliberately, and it’s not really parenting time, but it’s contact with the other parent via video and that the parents should work together to try to come up with make up time.
So after that 14 days, if the parent’s cleared, then maybe you do a two week on, two week off. So that’s the guidance. I think it’s generally spot on and applicable, and hopefully this helps you if you’ve got someone in your life who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who has been confirmed exposed to COVID-19 or has traveled out of the country. And stay tuned for the next section, which I think is really good. It’s on parenting time in public places and what to do now.
Part 4: Parenting Time in Public or Supervised Parenting Time
Hey there. It’s Billie Tarascio from Modern Law, continuing on in our series of parenting guidelines and parenting guidance during this COVID-19 crisis. This is video number four and it covers what to do if you’ve got a parenting time order for parenting time to occur in public places or for parenting time to be supervised. Now this is particularly tricky because if parenting time is supposed to be supervised and you’re either supposed to be at a center or there’s supposed to be someone like a grandparent supervising and you’ve got these restrictions down, you may have people who are unwilling to supervise and what to do then. So for parenting, if your parenting plan states that parenting time should occur in a public place, you should continue at locations permitted under our applicable order.
So right now, hiking is allowed. The trails are not closed. Playgrounds are closed, but parks are not. Bike rides are allowed. You should avoid things like picnic tables and railings, but being outside and therefore in public is still allowed and encouraged. And that’s where the parenting time should happen. If you can’t do that, if you can’t maintain social distancing while in public, then you should look to have virtual video conferencing, telephone contact. Come up with a way to make sure that your children are still connected to their other parent.
Now what about supervised parenting time? If supervised parenting time is ordered and the supervisor is unavailable for any reason, the parents should work collaboratively to ensure that parenting time continues to occur in a manner that promotes the children’s safety and wellbeing, such as finding an alternative supervisor. Now the primary residential parent may supervise the contact and you can also have parenting time virtually via video conferencing or telephone. So you’re going to want to get creative on who can supervise and you really are discouraged from using your supervised parenting time parenting plan to thwart parenting time between the other parent, the supervised parent and the child. Think about whether or not that could occur in public places. Think about whether you could be the supervisor right now.
Of course, if there’s an order of protection in place, that gets even trickier because order of protections are not suspended just because you’re now encouraged to act as a supervisor. So, maybe it’s a neighbor, maybe it’s a spouse. I don’t really encourage older siblings to ever be supervisors or siblings from another relationship to ever be supervisors. Some parents try to do that, but it’s up to you. You guys can decide to whatever you decide on. Next step, we’re going to talk about traveling parenting times. What happens when parenting time requires travel? And so don’t forget to make sure to subscribe. You don’t want to miss that. The bottom line on supervised and public parenting plans, is that this lockdown by Governor Ducey and the guidelines of the CDC do not suspend your obligation to make sure that both parents have parenting time with their children as often as possible per whatever parenting plan is in place. Stay tuned for what’s next.
Part 5: Should my child travel for parenting time during the Covid-19 crisis?
Hi, it’s Billie Tarascio from Modern Law, and we are covering parenting time guidelines amid the COVID-19 crisis, based on some guidance we’ve gotten out of the Pima County Courthouse, which is super helpful. And currently we’re on video number five regarding travel restrictions.
So in Arizona all schools are closed for the remainder of the year. And there is no executive orders limiting travel for parenting time exchanges. So Governor Ducy’s order includes the following as essential activity permitted under the order: engaging in activities, essential for the health and safety of family and household members and pets. Parenting time orders provide for the best interest and essential wellbeing of children, and travel for exchanges facilitate those orders. So the guidance we’ve gotten from the government is that children should travel for parenting time. So if a government order is issued that specifically restricts travel for parenting time exchanges, then parents must comply with that order. But unless otherwise directed, parents should consider to follow their parenting plan is written.
If the government orders restricted travel for parenting time exchanges, then parents should work together to encourage the child’s contact, the children’s contact with both parents and keep their arrangements as normal as possible. During the exchanges, parents should follow the CDC guidelines and the state of Arizona’s executive order for limiting the spread of the virus. So you may consider an alternative location for changes where fewer people congregate. If an exchange location is closed, the parents should choose an alternative location. For ongoing safety considerations, exchanges should occur in a neutral setting. And if the parenting plan includes air travel, parents should review the CDC travel guidelines and discuss whether driving is possible or preferable. But you don’t get a get out of jail free card by failing to put your child on a plane.
This is hugely traumatic for parents. Many, many parents do not like the idea of putting their child on a plane right now. And the guidance that we’re getting out of the courts is that you should do it. That you don’t get to withhold your child. For supervised exchanges, parents should continue to follow the parenting plan and use the designated agency or supervisor. And if that’s not possible, then you should work collaboratively to find a family friend or someone that you can talk to you about, that you can use as the supervisor.
So this guidance is going to be highly controversial and really difficult for a lot of parents to swallow. But the court is making it clear that that’s their guidance, and that if you fail to follow the court order, that there will be consequences.
Part 6: What to do when one parent won’t take precautions for the Covid-19 Crisis?
Hi there. It’s Billie Tarascio from Modern Law, and thank you for sticking with me through this series on guidance for parents with parenting plans under the COVID-19 crisis.
This is a big one. Parents are encouraged to talk to one another about the COVID-19 crisis and what precautions you’re taking. You’re encouraged to be able to talk to the other parents. You’re encouraged to share information about what’s going on at your various households. However, if the other parent refuses to speak with you about what they’re doing at their house for COVID-19, that is not a reason for you to withhold your child from parenting time. Specifically a parent is not permitted to deny parenting time based upon the other parent’s unwillingness to discuss precautionary measures taken, or the belief that the parent’s precautions are insufficient.
We have seen people trying to file emergency orders for on this very basis and they’re getting denied. So it does not matter if the other parent isn’t taking precautions that you think are necessary. You are not allowed to withhold parenting time and the court is not going to modify your parenting plan under these circumstances.
The last thing I will leave you with is if parenting time is missed due to COVID-19 related issues, or if you agree not to send your child to travel because both parents agree it’s too dangerous, it’s not a risk you’re willing to take, then make-up parenting time should be scheduled. You’re encouraged to work together to do that, and if you don’t, then it’s very likely that that’s simply what a court will order that you do when this crisis is done.
So I hope this guidance from Pima County is helpful when you’re trying to decide how to navigate this situation with a parent that you’re not living with. And if you have specific questions about your specific case and contact Modern Law, we’re happy to talk through that with you. A lot of these decisions are incredibly fact-specific and if you want to talk through that, we’ve got attorneys who are experienced in the area and willing to talk to you. Thanks so much. Stay safe, stay healthy.