Parenting (a/k/a “visitation”) in the Age of Corona

There has been much discussion questioning whether a parent can deny the other access to their joint children during the Coronavirus pandemic under the theory that the denying parent is “just” protecting the children. Of course a parent must keep children safe.  Each parent likely shares that goal.

The questions I would pose to those parents who unilaterally deny visitation during the pandemic are what other steps are you taking to protect your children?  Are you not letting others enter your home?  Are you refusing to permit your children to play with others?  Are you keeping yourself 100% isolated from others, so that you don’t bring the virus home?  If you’re not taking all these steps (and perhaps you should be) why is allowing the children’s other parent to see them introducing any greater risk to them?

Nobody advocates letting down your guard.  This is an opportunity to chart a new course with your co-parent to discuss ways to keep your children safe.  Perhaps you could both agree on a reasonable protocol you would both adhere to, so that you each have the safety and comfort of reasonable protection while not depriving your children of the love, affection, and guidance of their other parent.  Who knows?  This might set a whole new trajectory of being able to work things out when perhaps earlier the two of you were not able to.

While I have not yet seen any specific guidance from New York Courts on this issue, the way other states have handled this might be instructive.

Other states’ executive orders restricting travel exclude “essential travel.”  Essential travel is defined in those orders to include travel pursuant to a Court Order such as court-ordered parenting time for the other parent.

So a word of caution seems appropriate.  Parents should beware before unilaterally and unreasonably denying the other parent access to their children on the basis of the pandemic.  Remember there will an end to the pandemic, Courts will resume their traditional function and, I imagine, will not look kindly upon those parents using this pandemic as an excuse to prevent their co-parent from accessing the children.

N.B.  After drafting and posting this blog about the need for parents to behave reasonably and civilly during this pandemic, and make appropriate and reasonable accommodations to allow the non-custodial parent access to children, the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Matrimonial Matters in New York State, the Honorable Justice Jeffrey S. Sunshine, published an article in the New York Law Journal on “Covid-19 and Future Custody Determinations” echoing these sentiments almost exactly.  For a copy of that article click here.

Also, the AAML and AFCC have jointly issued guidelines for parents during this crises.  For a copy of those guidelines click here (for a Spanish version of the guidelines, click here).

 


 

COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR FAMILY LAW PROFESSIONALS
Friday, March 27, 2020
News about the coronavirus has been coming in fast and furious the past few weeks. It can be hard to determine which resources are accurate, important, and relevant for you.
AFCC understands how overwhelming this can be, which is why this list of timely resources was created. Whether you’re looking for webinars on COVID-19 or help educating children on the pandemic, you’ll find something useful here.
Stay tuned for more information on the next conversation! Registration information will be available next week. For now, mark your calendars:
Coparenting and Parenting Plans in a Tough Environment: Giving Guidance When It’s in Short Supply
Annette T. Burns, JD, and Hon. Gerri Wong
Wednesday, April 1, 2020 | 2:30pm Eastern Time (US)
Smith College School for Social Work Webinar
Marsha Kline Pruett and Mike Saini
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 | 7:00pm Eastern Time (US)
Better Care Network
Lyn R. Greenberg, PhD, ABPP
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)
AAML and AFCC Joint Statement
Kathleen McNamara, PhD and Lisa Hall, LMFT
Nicole Wilmet, Resource Center Director
Court ADR Connections, the eNewsletter of Resolution Systems Institute
If you have extra time on your hands, use it to further your career with professional development opportunities from AFCC.
The resources here, from AFCC and other trusted sources, may help you make sense of the present predicament and prepare for the future. Look for additional resources on our social media platforms. AFCC posts regularly to LinkedInFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.