With many schools shutting down and hospitals running out of capacity due to COVID, the dangers from the resurging number of COVID cases feels more alarming than ever before. The risk of COVID spread is especially high for people traveling from one part of the country to another.
What are parents supposed to do for long-distance parent time, especially over the Holidays? Divorce decrees and custody orders mandate holiday parent time, but are parents required to travel or send their children away for long-distance holiday parent time even with the COVID crisis?
The answer is generally yes. Providing parent time travel is generally considered essential, not much unlike hospital and emergency work or grocery and supermarket staffing. Despite the dangers present due to COVID, we do not know how long the crisis will last and COVID dangers should be balanced against the danger for lasting damage to a parent time relationship if long-distance parent time is denied.
Generally speaking, long-distance parent time should still be honored, despite COVID, but there are some exceptions. If active COVID cases are present at either the custodial parent or non-custodial parent’s household, then the long-distance parent time should be postponed until the COVID is no longer active or contagious in the household. Also, if the parent time travel poses an unacceptably high risk due to the child’s specific health concerns then the child should probably not travel. Instead, the non-custodial parent might consider traveling to the child. In either case, make-up parent time should of course be granted for any parent time missed.
Due to COVID dangers, parents and children should absolutely take precautions for any long-distance parent time travel. The custodial and non-custodial parent may each want to quarantine their households, including the child, for two weeks prior to and after travel. With school and work schedules, strict quarantine may not be possible. In that case, a soft quarantine (avoiding any unnecessary socializing, meetings, shopping, etc) can be used to help minimize the risk.
And of course, both parents and the child should wear masks, wash hands frequently, and practice good social distancing before, during, and after the parent time travel. Also consider changing clothes and or bathing immediately on reaching your destination to minimize risks. In all cases, follow local health department guidelines.
In a nutshell, allowing parent time is considered essential to the healthy, normal development for your child. Parents should be supportive of each other in making sure parent time happens. And if parent time needs to be long-distance, then both parents should do what they can to minimize the risks from COVID while still working to honor their divorce decree or custody order.
If you have questions or concerns about parent time and COVID issues, contact Jonathan Felt at Felt Family Law & Mediation or another attorney near you.