As a divorced parent, you need to always keep your child custody order in mind. Not following your parenting time schedule can land you in serious legal trouble in some situations. For example, if you don’t bring your child to your ex-spouse to transfer custody when your parenting time ends, you could be accused of contempt or non-compliance with the court’s orders. You could face fines or an award of attorney fees if your ex-spouse has to seek enforcement from the court. Your ex-spouse might even take you to court to try to remove your parenting rights entirely.
Staying in compliance with your child custody order can become quite difficult during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Many people across the country have been surprised to find that their local municipalities have begun enforcing multiweek “secure-in-place” quarantines. Under these rules, you essentially are not to leave your home unless buying essential supplies or for medical reasons. If a quarantine begins right before you were supposed to exchange custody with your ex, what are you supposed to do?
Talk to Your Ex-Spouse
To begin, avoiding any legal complications is easier if both you and your spouse want to avoid them. If you feel comfortable communicating with your spouse, then give them a call, text, or email and explain to them what happened. Many divorced couples live in separate cities and counties for more personal space, so it's possible that your ex is not yet aware that your area is under a self-quarantine order. With any luck, they will be understanding, and you can focus on preserving your health and that of your child instead of trying to stick strictly to a child custody order.
Check with Local Authorities
There might be a good reason to need to bring your child to your ex-spouse during a quarantine order. Before you hit the road to bring your child across town or county lines, call the local police station to inquire about how to legally break quarantine. You may be given specific instructions about what to do if you are pulled over by an officer, for example. You just want to take extra steps to explain your actions and plan for any unexpected complications.
Consider Temporary Schedule Changes
After the quarantine ends, you should consider discussing how to rebalance your parenting time. If you spend a week or so with your child but it was outside the normal custody order, then consider temporarily changing next month’s schedule to give your ex-spouse another week. Little changes like this can be made by you and your ex-spouse without the approval of the court. Although, it is always suggested that you speak with a family law attorney first to form a legally-sound plan.
Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. is a family law firm that provides representation throughout Colorado. If you need help figuring out what to do with your child custody order under quarantine, please feel free to give our law firm a call at (720) 809-8310. Please do all you can to keep yourself, your family, and others healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. We wish you the best.