Temporary Changes to Parenting Time and the Coronavirus/COVID 19 Pandemic

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

    There may be good reasons for some families to depart temporarily from the existing parenting plan for their children during the Coronavirus/COVID 19 pandemic.

    Some of these reasons could include a child or one of the parents being vulnerable, because of a compromised immune system, or a joint family situation where some other member of one household has a compromised immune system, or is over the age of 60.

    The courts look to the best interests of the children in determining who should have custody, and what the parenting time schedule should be.

    It may or may not be possible to get an agreed upon temporary change in parenting time approved by the court in the form of a Stipulated Judgment if both parents agree upon such a temporary change.  It is unclear exactly how much the courts will still be able to process paperwork as the partial court shut down that now exists continues.

    It is even more unclear how much the courts can accommodate requests to change parenting plans if there is a lack of agreement between the parents.  Court hearings have been strictly limited by Order of the Oregon Supreme Court during the Coronavirus/COVID 19 pandemic.

    And, of course, there is always a concern that a temporary change will become the new normal, or the new status quo, after a while, so some parents may be reluctant to agree to even a temporary change, even when there is a good reason for that temporary change during this current pandemic.

    Generally, however, the courts reward the parent who adjusts to situations and acts in the best interests of their children (and in the best interests of others who are important to their children) in a case such as this.  And generally, if the courts have to decide between favoring a parent who acts in a responsible fashion and in the best interests of their children, while fostering as much contact as possible between the other parent and the children, and a parent who has behaved less reasonably, the courts will favor the reasonable parent, and the courts will not favor the one who has been unreasonable.

    In particular, if a child has a compromised immune system, and one parent’s household lacks risk factors that the other household faces, it might be very wise to temporarily have the child stay in the safer place.

    Even if the child does not have a compromised immune system, one parent, or some other family member in one household, may have high risk factors which may make it better to severely limit the number of people living in that person’s household (and hence the risk factors faced by that person).

    There may be other reasons to depart from the standard parenting plan as well, if one parent or household has a parent or other responsible adult who can work from home while school is not in session, but the other household does not easily have that same ability to provide care for children who are not in school.

    These factors should all be carefully balanced, and a plan that works in the best interests of the children should be followed if such a plan can be agreed between the parents.

    Mediation, if available, may also be helpful in coming to such a resolution.

    If agreement cannot be reached, it may be necessary to see whether the courts can help resolve the dispute at this time, but parents should be prepared for limitations relating to the partial court closures that are now in place.