Does the State-Wide Stay-at-Home Order Allow Parenting Time Exchanges?
Governor Polis issued a state-wide executive order yesterday requiring Coloradans to stay at home until April 11, with exceptions. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) then issued a follow-up order that clarified the exceptions. The CDPHE order has language very similar to the county-wide orders we saw previously and has exceptions to the travel ban that allow travel to care for dependents and to comply with court orders.
Unfortunately, the Colorado courts have not yet issued any direct guidance for divorced or separated parents regarding how to share custody of children during the Coronavirus outbreak. Though we do not know for sure how Colorado judges will handle all of this in the long run, we have seen some very clear and firm orders from individual judges that parenting time exchanges should still happen in the particular circumstances of those individual cases.
We have also seen guidance from courts in other states that have been dealing with stay-at-home orders longer than Colorado has. Those states are interpreting stay-at-home orders to allow parenting time exchanges. For example:
- The governor of Illinois issued a state-wide stay-at-home order on March 21 with similar language to the Colorado orders.
- The presiding judge of the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County asked everyone to use common sense and not look for excuses to avoid abiding by existing parenting time orders.
- In Texas, the Supreme Court of Texas clarified that parenting time orders are not affected by school closures or COVID-19.
Thus, we continue to strongly believe that, in the vast majority of cases, parents should indeed continue to abide by family court orders, including parenting time exchanges and visits. Where, however, there is a direct threat of harm through, for example, a positive Coronavirus diagnosis in the home of the other parent, the concerned parent should seek a modified court order to protect the child.