If you abide by a court-ordered parenting time schedule, you may be wondering what impact the recent COVID-19 virus outbreak or a potential government-mandated lockdown will have on your normal parenting time schedule. Keep in mind that, given this unprecedented situation, there has not been time for judges to issue much guidance. However, here are some general guidelines to follow:
1. Parenting Time Exchanges are Likely to Be Deemed Necessary
If Minnesota follows the trends being set by other states issuing “stay at home orders” there will likely be many exceptions made for necessary outings, such as going to the grocery store, gas station, or even going for a walk outside. It is anticipated that a parenting time exchange would likely be considered by a court to be a necessary outing so that one parent is not denied time with their child. Therefore, at this time, it would be advised to continue to follow your current parenting time schedule if both parents and all members of their households are healthy.
2. CDD Guidelines and Common Sense Should Be Followed
During a parenting time exchange, all CDC guidelines with regards to social distancing and elimination of risk of virus exposure should be followed. Parenting time exchanges should be able to be accomplished with little to no contact and should not include any unnecessary parties. Further, if either parent has tested positive for the virus, is experiencing symptoms, has someone in their household who has or has been exposed to someone who has, the parties need to modify parenting time so that all potential harm to the children is minimized, which may include the children not being in one parent’s care for at least 14 days. Parents need to work together to ensure that the best interests of the children are paramount. In almost every circumstance, parenting time schedules can be modified upon agreement by both parents. Compensatory parenting time can also be available if a parent misses parenting time due to the virus or in an exercise of caution.
As with many parenting time issues, these circumstances may need to be examined on a case-by-case basis to determine what parenting time arrangement will be in the best interest of the children.