Tips for Timesharing During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Timesharing can be difficult for many families, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As families continue to practice social distancing to mitigate the spread of the virus, issues may arise when the children are being exchanged between households and parents may want to deviate from their timesharing plan. However, the Florida Statutes and most timesharing agreements do not include any emergency timesharing provisions to cover these obstacles.
Courts will decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not a parent is being reasonable when refusing timesharing with the other parent. Therefore, it is important that both parents act in the best interests of the children when making any decisions.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as issues with timesharing arise during the ongoing pandemic:
- Comply with all court orders and the existing parenting plan as much as possible. Parents should attempt to maintain a level of normalcy for the children despite schools closures.
- Be cooperative and work with your co-parent to keep the children’s timesharing schedule as regular as possible.
- Discuss with your co-parent how you or your children’s exposure to the public may adversely affect the timesharing agreement. It is important not to make any negative assumptions about your co-parent’s household or exposure to the virus.
- Communicate with your co-parent regarding the health and well-being of your children, especially if they have been exposed to the virus or have any symptoms.
- Be flexible and allow your co-parent make-up timesharing with the children in the event that deviating from the timesharing schedule becomes necessary.
- Encourage as much virtual contact as possible (through telephone, facetime, skype, zoom, etc.) if the pandemic prevents one parent from exercising timesharing for an extended period of time.
- Confirm any changes to the timesharing plan in writing (text message, email, etc.). Even if an agreement can be reached without court involvement, make sure to put the changes to the timesharing schedule in writing to protect against issues that may arise in the future.
- Do not make any unilateral decisions regarding the timesharing schedule. You may need to consult your attorney if an agreement cannot be reached and you believe your children are at increased risk of exposure while in the other parent’s care. Under certain circumstances, an emergency order from the court may be appropriate.
Unreasonable unilateral decisions may subject a parent to contempt penalties. It is important to keep in mind that the risk of being found in contempt of court for deviating from the timesharing agreement is greater when the risk of harm to the children’s health is remote. Above all, any decision that makes changes to the parenting plan and/or timesharing schedule should be made in the best interests of the children and to protect their health.
About the Author: Josephine Jorgensen concentrates her practice in the areas of complex business and commercial litigation, condominium and community association law and family law. Josephine Jorgensen received her Juris Doctor from University of Miami School of Law, graduating cum laude.