Parenting Schedules in the time of COVID-19: What to Do and What to Expect

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The state of the world we currently find ourselves has not been seen in our lifetimes, possible never before seen. It is perfectly natural to feel out of your depth, especially when your children become involved.
Many parents are asking questions, and we at Parks and Meade are here to help!

​Do I need to follow my custody agreement or parenting time order during the Stay-at-home order?

The short answer to this question is yes.
Ohio’s stay-at-home order states that one purpose for essential travel is to transport children to comply with a custody agreement. You are allowed to leave your home to transport your child to their other parent, and vice versa.
Even with this being the case, what happens when one parent is deemed an essential worker? In some cases, parents have attempted to stop visitation or alter custody agreements without using the court as the proper channel, and have gained de facto full custody. It is unclear still how the courts will react to these unilateral decisions once courts are hearing cases again.
The most essential thing to try in this situation is communication. This can be very difficult depending on the facts of your case. If you can resolve your custody issues without the intervention of a court you will not only save time, you will also save money and be less stressed during these already difficult times. However, if you are unable to find any common ground with your child’s other parent, seek out the assistance of an attorney to guide you through this process during these unprecedented times.
Judges in Franklin County have stated that unilaterally stopping parenting time is not lawful, and that the court’s orders are binding regardless of one parent’s employment. This includes parents that work in healthcare or are otherwise employed as essential workers. The orders are to be obeyed unless they are changed by the court themselves.

What do I do if my child’s other parent does not obey the stay-at-home order, or doesn’t follow social distancing?

If you are concerned for the safety of your child, your first choice should be to attempt to come to an agreement with the other parent. Attempt to establish safety measures that you will both follow, both to provide protection for your children and also to give your child consistency.
If you are unable to reach an agreement regarding these measures, you may be able to agree to a modified custody arrangement, if your court order allows for the parties to agree outside of the order. It is a good idea to review your agreement to make sure it allows for this.
If co-operation is not possible, you have a few choices. If the other parent is willfully disregarding the stay-at-home order, you have the options to report them to the authorities. However, social distancing has been difficult for the state to enforce, and the law is unclear as to how courts will rule on these issues in the light of shared parenting agreement.
If you feel that you have tried everything to no avail, you may wish to seek legal help to receive advice specific to your individual circumstances. Especially if you, your child, or someone else in your household is at high risk for becoming very sick from COVID-19. In extreme circumstances, it might be appropriate to file an emergency motion with the court to seek a change in the court order.

You may need legal assistance to resolve this issue

In the best case scenario, parents will be able to work together to keep themselves and both households safe during these difficult times.
However, if you are unable to work with your child’s other parent and feel that you want to explore options for how to resolve your custody issues during the COVID-19 pandemic in Columbus, Ohio, Parks and Meade is here to help. Give us a call at 614-389-1038 to schedule your free consultation today.

Katherine Kelley

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