By Jadelyne Long
As many families are forced to stay at home, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many issues, questions and concerns arise regarding timesharing with your children.
Keep in mind that I am licensed in the state of Florida, so any tips are based on my legal experiences in that state. Here are a few important questions family law attorneys are getting asked during these difficult times:
Do I have to follow my court ordered parenting plan and timesharing schedule during a stay at home order?
Yes, you should always abide by a court, even if you do not agree with it. During these unprecedented times, there is a lot of uncertainty and fear over what potentially could happen. Being that this topic revolves around the health and safety of your children, there is a greater cause for concern.
However, just because you do not agree with the court order, you should not unilaterally decide not to follow any court order parenting plan or timesharing schedule. Although many businesses are closed, the courts remotely are open, and hearings are being conducted via phone and via Zoom.
Therefore, if you are deemed to be in violation of a court order, the other parent can file for contempt and present it before the judge, to be heard remotely during this time. If the judge rules that you are to be held in contempt, this could subject you to monetary penalties, and even land you in jail, not to mention tank your case.
What if my child was exposed or I suspect he/she was exposed to COVID-19, do I still have to follow my court order parenting plan and timesharing schedule?
It is very important, especially during these times, to be transparent with the other parent. If you or the other parent suspect that your child(ren) has been exposed, or there is a possibility that they were exposed, discuss it. If there are steps you and the other parent can take to get the child tested, or have them self-quarantine, then discuss those steps.
Now is not the time to put the blame on the other parent for potentially exposing the child to this illness. Focus on what is important, which is the health of your family and your children. Make sure you have a game plan in place for providing medical care/treatment, medications in the event your child has other underlying illnesses or conditions, and that any other children in the household also are not exposed.
My ex-wife is not allowing me to see my children during the stay-at-home order. What can I do?
In this instance, it is paramount that you have a family law attorney that you can count on. An attorney can file with the court to hold the other parent in contempt of court for not following the court order. If the court finds the other parent to be in contempt, the court also may allow you make up parenting time for the time you missed when the other parent was not complying with the order.
Do your best to communicate with the other parent and maintain a written record of your attempts to see the children during this time. Right now, Broward County has an order stating that timesharing is to continue pursuant to your court order. If there is a shelter-in-place order, where no one is permitted to travel for exchanges, then it is suggested that the parent with majority timesharing, with 183 overnights or more, should keep the children.
However, again, once the orders are lifted, and the court resumes, the parent who did not have the children can get make up timesharing.