Visitation in a Pandemic
Find out how COVID-19 impacts visitation schedules.
COVID-19 has many of life’s activities on hold, but what about time with your children? Does social distancing or the shelter in place take precedence over a visitation schedule? What about if a visitation schedule centers around a school’s calendar year? Following a visitation schedule can be confusing in light of school cancellations, remote learning, and other measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents may also be concerned about compromising their children’s health and safety by following their normal visitation schedule. These concerns are understandable, but also readily addressed.
It’s important to note that visitation is deemed an “essential” activity under Governor Brian Kemp’s state of emergency order. As a result, parents should follow their visitation schedule in good faith. Many visitation schedules center around the children’s school schedule, and questions arise of how to follow such a visitation schedule during a seemingly non-school time.
As local Marriage and Family Therapist, Diane Dierks, explained: school is in fact in session. While children are not physically attending school, their academic school year continues through remote learning. As a result, some judges have indicated that parents should follow their visitation schedules as if the parent’s home where the child does schoolwork was also the child’s school. This means that if a visitation schedule normally calls for a child to be dropped off at school at 7:00 a.m. and picked up at 3:00 p.m. by a certain parent, then that parent would also be responsible for pick up and drop off at the same times – just at the other parent’s house or another agreed upon location.
Of course, circumstances during a pandemic do not always conform easily to a set visitation schedule. Concerns about contracting COVID-19 are valid, but should not interfere with a visitation schedule unless there is a direct and compelling reason. As a result, parents should refrain from arbitrarily changing or withholding visitation schedules without knowledge that a person in their co-parent’s home is positive for COVID-19. However, even in cases of a positive COVID-19 case, parents should consult with an attorney before deviating from the ordered visitation schedule. While a parent may believe they are making the best decision for their family, they could potentially risk a contempt action against them for failing to follow the visitation schedule.
Ultimately, parents should follow CDC social distancing and disinfecting guidelines to minimize risk. Further, parents should strive to co-parent in this time of uncertainty, even tag-teaming remote learning duties if possible. Rather than unilaterally changing visitation, parents should work together to determine the best and safest ways they can follow their visitation schedules during this time. In the event of a positive COVID-19 case, parents should communicate with each other and their respective attorneys before disregarding their current visitation schedule. Remember that following a visitation in good faith also helps continue a child’s sense of structure and stability in an already confusing time. If a parent is confused about the best way to comply with their visitation schedule, Spooner & Associates, P.C. can offer guidance on the best way to follow a visitation schedule given a situation’s unique circumstances. If you have questions about your visitation schedule, please call our office at 678-714-1131.