Concerns that New Jersey may soon see a widespread outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has school districts throughout the state preparing for emergency closures that could last weeks or even months. If you are a divorced parent following your school year parenting time schedule, you are probably wondering how a prolonged school closure could affect your time with your kids.
Should you and your ex take time now to get your own emergency custody plan in place to cover any worst case scenarios?
We believe the answer to this question is an unequivocal YES. Your children may be feeling as much uncertainty as you are right now. So with this in mind, here are 5 ways to prepare and protect your time with your kids, no matter what’s to come.
Create a temporary parenting time schedule as soon as possible. Working together to figure out a parenting time schedule that covers any gap in the school year due to coronavirus can be tricky, especially since school vacation camps and other day care resources may not be available. If you both work similar hours, can one of you switch your schedule or start working from home (which is also a growing option due to COVID-19)? Can you enlist the help of relatives or friends to help supervise your child? For co-parents on decent terms, creating a temporary parenting time schedule may only take a matter of hours to arrive at a workable agreement. High conflict co-parents may be better off enlisting the help of a mediator or even going before a judge to get a schedule in place without delay. An attorney will be able to help you understand your options.
Agree to rules for travel, hygiene and activities. Reducing your risk, and your children’s risk, for contracting coronavirus means that when your child is in your care, you are taking precautions such as frequent hand washing, limiting crowd exposure, and not traveling to coronavirus hot spots and/or avoiding unnecessary travel. If your child has a compromised immune system or other underlying health condition, more rigid procedures may be needed to limit your child’s exposure. As part of parenting time planning, you and your ex should establish protocols that you both agree to follow to protect the health of everyone in the family.
Make contingency plans if one or both of you gets sick, or requires quarantine. If one of you contracts coronavirus, where will your child stay? Do you have someplace to go to remain in isolation as needed/directed? Is your health insurance and life insurance up to date? Do you and your ex know the symptoms of COVID-19 and have current contact information for your child’s doctor and your own? Do you have a stock of basics at home in case you and your child must remain in isolation: water, non-perishable food, toilet paper, etc.
Be flexible when things “get back to normal.” If your ex lives in a COVID-19 hotspot like Westchester County and you both decided to have your child avoid the area until after the outbreak, what is the plan for making up your child’s lost time with their other parent? If your parenting time over the next few months is significantly disrupted, be prepared to possibly entertain changes to your summer and/or holiday schedule to make up for lost time.
Get help from a family lawyer. Whenever you make a change to your parenting time or custody schedule, it’s important to have a family lawyer help you put these changes in writing. If you must give up significant parenting time due to emergency school closures, having this noted will help you get this time back in the future. If your ex does not follow the precautions you’ve agreed to, you can take your written agreement to court for enforcement. If you and your ex feel stumped on how you can arrange emergency closure parenting time, your family law attorney can walk you through your best options.
Have questions about child custody, parenting time and COVID-19? We can help. We offer virtual online appointments with an attorney, or you are welcome to meet with your attorney in person. Our caring lawyers can help you get together a parenting time plan that safeguards you and your children during this difficult time. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the button below.
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