The COVID-19 pandemic has forced just about everyone in the country to adjust to a new routine. For separated parents with shared custody, routine is relative, and very easily upended, even in the best of times. While stay-at-home recommendations are in effect, it’s sometimes hard to make judgement calls that will honor your court ordered parenting agreement and also protect the health and safety of your child and family. If you’re wondering about how to handle parenting time during quarantine, our guide can help.
It’s essential to remember that even with the pandemic spreading around the country, court ordered parenting time agreements should be honored as much as possible. However, if someone in a household is sick, or if traveling restrictions make transferring a child from one residence to another impossible, there are options.
Is Virtual Visitation an Option During Coronavirus?
For many, online communication is helping friends and family stay close while staying apart. It’s possible to use this approach when adapting your parenting plan as well. However, virtual visitation is not a replacement for in-person parenting time, and your custody agreement should be respected whenever possible. Failing to honor the court-ordered parenting agreement may put you at risk of being held in contempt of court. You may even face penalties if the court deems it to be a consistent problem that violates the best interests of the child.
That being said, virtual visitation can be incorporated into your court ordered custody arrangement in order to minimize disputes if the situation arises again. In the past, this was mainly used for (1) parents who only had supervised visitation rights rather than custody time, (2) movements out of state that necessitated long distance co-parenting. However, there will probably be a rise of its implementation into custody agreements as we realize how quarantine will likely change many future aspects of our daily lives.
Remember, virtual visitation can be a contingency plan when certain restrictions prevent in-person contact. But nothing compares to in-person time with a parent.
What Is Virtual Visitation?
Modern technology allows us to stay in touch with loved ones using a variety of communication methods. Virtual visitation will usually refer to videoconferencing with the child, but it can also refer to phone calls, texting, email, sending videos, and social media communication. Sometimes, virtual visitation happens organically when a child is away from one parent. Other times, a schedule must be specifically designated so that a child can have help communicating with the absent parent.
Adding Contingencies for Virtual Visitation in Your Parenting Agreement
Stay-at-home orders around the country are already being lifted, and we’re seeing businesses open and life return to normal (hopefully and gradually). However, many experts predict that there could be subsequent phases of quarantine, restricted travel, and occasional regional closures to counter any outbreaks of the coronavirus. Certainly, even if life gets back to normal, there will still be periods when someone in the household is sick, and the entire family must take extra precautions to stay home.
That’s why we predict that more parents will ask for virtual visitation to be included in their parenting plan in order to provide a backup means of keeping in touch with children, even if normally scheduled parenting time is delayed.
Is it time for an update to your custody agreement? We can help. Our practice has a wealth of experience in navigating divorce and shared parenting arrangements. We aggressively represent our clients to ensure that their parenting rights are upheld and that the child’s best interests are respected by the court. Call us at 480-745-2450 or contact us to learn more.