The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our society have been almost endless. This also holds true for the area of family law, so to help Florida families understand how to navigate complex co-parenting and time-sharing issues, this article will review how you can face these challenges during COVID-19.
First Things First: Prioritizing the Child’s Needs
It’s a valuable exercise to look at this situation from a child’s perspective. This is a new experience for kids as they are out of school and adjusting to online and home school learning, they can’t play with their friends as normal, their sports, parties, and other activities are being canceled, and they’re told not to hug or get close to those they love. This is also a scary situation for many children who are learning about a contagious virus, hearing reports of deaths on the news, and seeing people wearing masks and gloves in public.
Many children are anxious and parents must not add stress to the situation by understanding that they need to be a calming influence right now. That means parents should be flexible and communicate with each other regarding safety measures and other issues. Parents also need to be extremely careful with their actions (texts, social media, and unilateral decision-making) during this pandemic, as they may be judged later for unreasonable behavior later on when things settle down.
Handling Sensitive Time-Sharing Issues
Many parents and families might be confused about how to exercise time-sharing during the pandemic. They might be concerned whether the other parent is taking the coronavirus seriously and/or whether the children are following online learning protocols.
Hillsborough County’s Chief Judge provided some guidance in an Administrative Order issued on 04/15/20. The Order specifically addresses shared parenting:
“If a final judgment, temporary order, or other order of the court awards parental responsibility or time-sharing, the parties must follow the calendar as published in the order and neither parent is authorized to make a unilateral modification to the time-sharing calendar based on the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Administrative Order also seems to caution against abusing emergency motions at this time, stating, “A true emergency exists, where, for example, a child is threatened with physical harm or is about to be improperly removed from the state.”
A Recent Example
A Judge in Miami granted a Father’s motion for emergency for sole time-sharing during the crisis, because the Mother is an emergency room doctor and the Judge wanted to limit the child’s risk to exposure to the virus. The ruling was short-lived as the appellate court reviewing the decision decided to reinstitute the original time-sharing schedule while the appeal is handled. Mirroring some of the language in the Hillsborough Administrative Order, the Mother in this case told the media, “It should be up to the parents to make the decision together and I wasn’t even given that option by my ex-husband”.
Questions? Contact Our Family Law Team
Like many aspects of family law, the facts and circumstances of your particular case will dictate the appropriate legal remedies if you are having issues related to co-parenting and time-sharing during the coronavirus pandemic. At Robert Sparks Attorneys, we understand that nothing is more serious than these important family matters – and we can provide compassionate, reasoned counsel if you need help navigating a dispute.
Call (813) 336-3348 to get in touch with our team and schedule a consultation.