Co-parenting proves difficult in “normal” times. Throw in a global pandemic and parents suddenly find themselves grasping for control. Many parents are wondering how they can effectively keep their children safe while still following their court-ordered time sharing schedules. When you were given a copy of your final judgment establishing your time sharing schedule, you may have been surprised to see how long the document was. As family law attorneys, we strive to add in as many terms as possible to avoid litigation. However, it is doubtful that your agreement has a “pandemic provision.” The below are some tips to navigate this unprecedented time.
If you cannot agree:
- Safety first: Control what you can. Make sure you are doing everything in your power to ensure that your household is practicing social distancing, wearing masks in public, and washing hands. Teach your children how important it is to maintain these habits even when they are not with you. As many of the experts predict, this pandemic is not likely to end until a vaccine is produced. Creating healthy habits and routines will ensure that you and your family are protecting yourselves.
- Follow your order: If communication still lacking and you believe that you should withhold the children until you get the answers you want, then you may be in breach of your court order. Non-compliance with a court order carries severe consequences.
Violations could result in fines, sanctions (if your case is still pending) and even jail time. If you believe an emergency situation exists, you should consult with a family law attorney to determine if it is a matter that can be brought to the judge’s attention immediately. If your ex is withholding the children from you, there are also methods to expedite the issue before the judge. Further, many parenting plans contain provisions that allow a party to recover attorney’s fees if they are forced to enforce the order for non-compliance. If you withhold the children and the other parent is forced to file a motion with the court, you may have to pay their attorney’s fees.
- Make Up Time: The law provides that any parent who withholds the children from the other parents in violation of a time sharing order will have to give up time in the future for the other parent to make up time.
If you are able to come to an agreement with your child’s other parent, there are a variety of options to you besides what is strictly required in your order:
- Communicate: It seems obvious, but even parents who barely speak should see past their differences to come up with a game plan. If it is easier, imagine you are back at the mediation table, hammering out one more term to your parenting plan. Put your differences aside for the common goal of keeping both households healthy. If you really cannot get on the same page—mediate! There is no requirement for a court order or attorney representation for parents to hire a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator to help you resolve your issues. Mediators now even utilizing virtual mediations. Communication regarding who the children are seeing, what safety measures are being taken and even where the children are going when with the other parent allows both parents the transparency to know how to protect themselves and others.
- Seek a temporary agreed order: In a situation where you do not trust that both sides will abide by your agreement, you can always submit a temporary agreed order for the judge’s signature. Contact a family law attorney to advise you and draft the order so it is enforceable by the court, to ensure compliance.
- Use technology and be flexible about switching days: Many parents are finding that their work schedules are different during the pandemic. With parents working from home and home schooling their kids, it is hard to adjust to the new normal. It may be helpful for parents to discuss their current work schedules and assist each other in temporarily switching days to allow one parent to work and the other to help the kids with Zoom school. This may help maintain sanity between the parents.
- Document changes: Keep a log of any schedule changes made for your records. This will help you in the future if there is ever a need to file or defend against a motion to modify time sharing.
If you have any questions on how to co-parent in a pandemic or are experiencing violations of your time sharing order, contact Lisa Weber, Esq. of the Law Office of Lisa Weber, P.A. at (561) 235-2495. The Law Office of Lisa Weber, Esq. PA is a boutique law firm based in Boca Raton focused in the areas of family law and real estate law. Our firm is rooted in technology and efficiency in order to provide our clients with the most effective counsel and results.