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Coronavirus & Co-Parenting: Can COVID-19 Affect Child Custody?

Richard A. Harris

The coronavirus is dominating the news these days. We are all worrying about the impacts on our families, jobs, and communities.

Though there are far-reaching consequences associated with COVID-19, we wonder whether the health crisis will add additional strain to contentious child custody disputes. Given recent events, there is reason to believe this is something parents who are divorcing or who are already co-parenting with a divorced parent should be thinking about.

Allocating Parental Responsibilities

Under Colorado law, child custody, or the “allocation of parental responsibilities” can be shared or joint or sole. In the vast majority of cases, joint decision-making is awarded. And in such cases, Colorado law makes a distinction between those decisions which joint decision-making parents must share, and those which the day-to-day parent who has the child(ren) can unilaterally make. Typically, the former category are the major or the long-term decisions.

How might the coronavirus crisis impact here? Well, it all comes down to how one defines the major versus day-to-day decisions and, sadly, there are some gray areas here. In family law cases, we know that any gray areas are ones that are potentially rife with conflict. Thus, advance planning, preferably thru specific agreements and orders, will help avoid the stress and expense of future fights.

For example, what about the decision to self-quarantine if a child has been exposed? What about whether to send a child to an out-of-state vacation or make plans for childcare should schools be closed? What about whether to have the child continue to participate in certain extra-curricular activities?

These can be incredibly challenging and difficult decisions for any parent to be faced with. Divorcing or divorced couples should do everything right now that they reasonably can to have conversations with their co-parent to resolve these issues wherever possible. Otherwise, these decisions are going to be even more difficult.

Do you have questions about child custody, parental rights, or another family law issue? Our team of compassionate, award-winning attorneys at The Harris Law Firm are here to help. Contact usto speak with a member of our team.

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