The Holidays, Your Family and COVID
It is time once again for family and friends to come together to celebrate the holidays. Unfortunately, this year’s holiday season will be much different than any other any of us have experienced before.
For starters, there is presently a “Level 2 - Safer at Home” Order for the entire State of Colorado as a response to the startling surge in COVID cases in recent weeks. Most, if not all, counties have issued Public Health Orders restricting gatherings of more than 5 persons not of the same household. For most, this will put a damper on their usual holiday family events. We encourage you to make your holiday plans with these restrictions in mind.
For those families who are separated or divorced, there are additional challenges and stresses. Many parents do not agree that parenting plans should be adhered to in light of the pandemic. However, parents should exercise extreme caution in violating any clear court orders for visitation, known as “parenting time” in Colorado.
To compound matters, court access may be limited at this time of year due to crowded dockets exacerbated by the COVID crisis. Moreover, in some jurisdictions, judges are reluctant to grant family law hearings unless one can prove an actual emergency involving a risk of harm to children.
Overall, parents must remain cautious and vigilant as co-parents, not only for our families but for all persons in our society. Although you or your immediate family may not have any of the risk factors which could cause COVID to be fatal, it is easy to imagine how some of our family or our friends could be. Due to the extended latency period of this particular virus, you could be asymptomatic for up to a week and be spreading the virus without your knowledge. I doubt many of us would feel good for spreading the virus to a friend or family member, causing them to have to fight COVID for their lives.
Co-Parenting in the days of COVID has been fraught with many, many challenges. What, where and how we do anything anymore needs to be carefully balanced between necessity and exposure risks. The sad news presently is, in the recent past we haven’t been doing a very good job of measuring these risks and COVID is on the rise, significantly in Colorado for certain. Not all parents may agree as to where those balance points lie and it can cause conflict when trying to co-parent. You may need to consult your Parenting Plan’s dispute resolution section for the prescribed method to resolve these disputes.
Unfortunately, there is no simple legal formula to resolve these issues and the Courts have generally declined to accept motions based solely on COVID disputes. The Courts have not distinguished COVID from any other child health care issue and the Parenting Plan should already outline which or if both parents have decision-making. As with most issues, the Courts want the parents to work it out themselves, if possible. If all best efforts to reach a compromise have been made, a conversation with your attorney about your situation would be your next best step.
The most prudent and recommended approach is one of considerable restraint and caution. We have been all missing the activities we enjoy the most during COVID. Our children may or may not be old enough yet to appreciate the gravity of our present reality which adds to the emotional burden each parent must bear. A parent should constantly ask themselves, “Is this activity worth the life of my child or someone else I love and care about?” We appreciate this is a grim question but, this is the world we are in right now. We must all work together to ensure we all get through COVID alive and as quickly as possible.
Presently, there is no specific mandate from the State of Colorado concerning Holiday activities. As stated, many counties have already put more stringent restrictions in place. Some counties and municipalities have made announcements and placed public health orders as to which, if any, activities they will allow or not allow. It would be wise to check your local government’s website or call them for information.
The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment keeps up-to-date information and recommendations on how to keep you and your family safe here. It is our best advice to follow these recommendations and to always use your best co-parenting judgment to keep your children safe.
From The Harris Law family to yours, we wish you the safest and happiest of holidays!