One of the most common issues we have heard from clients and co-parenting friends concerning COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is when parents don’t agree on which of the child’s activities should be precluded as COVID-19 precautions. Unfortunately, it is the children who suffer the most, as with any inconsistent co-parenting issue. The best advice our attorneys at The Harris Law Firm can give is to try to figure it out for the kids through mutual understanding and compromise.
There are many co-parenting issues that can arise during a pandemic. For example, one parent may want the child to attend in-classroom learning, while the other believes being around a large number of children is too risky. Another common conflict we have seen is when one parent is willing to allow the child to participate in extracurricular activities that the other parent believes are not safe. Yet another common scenario, which is most perplexing, is when a parent takes inconsistent positions on a child-by-child, school-by-school, activity-by-activity basis. For instance, Mom might be okay with the oldest child participating with the swim team but against the youngest child playing football; Dad then takes the opposite position with one or both activities. A common resolution for the extracurricular activity impasse is, “You do what you want to do when you have custody, and I will do what I want to do when I have custody.”
Unfortunately, there is no simple legal formula to resolve these issues and the courts have generally declined to accept motions based solely on COVID-19 disputes. The courts have not distinguished COVID-19 from any other child health care issue, and the parenting plan should already outline which parent has decision-making power or whether this power is shared by both parents. As with most issues, the courts want the parents to work it out for themselves, if possible. If all your best efforts to reach a compromise have been of no avail, a conversation with your attorney would be the next best step.
The Colorado Supreme Court has not issued an opinion concerning parental disputes over COVID-19; no court may infringe on a parent’s constitutional right to parent as they see fit as long as there is no evidence showing the child’s best interests are not being met. District courts and family law attorneys generally recommend the parents defer to their parenting plan concerning dispute resolution. However, should a parent deliberately direct their child to disobey statewide orders concerning COVID-19 — such as practicing social distancing and wearing a mask — then a child endangerment argument may arise, which your attorney should be able to help you with.
Halloween has traditionally been a highly social holiday with trick-or-treating, costume parties, and other highly social activities. Parents should use their best judgment, not only for their children’s activities but for themselves. Prohibiting a child from trick-or-treating would not serve much purpose if one of the parents became infected at their Halloween-themed social event and came home to spread it to the rest of the family. Again, parental disagreements over which activities the child should be allowed to participate in is subject to any other parental dispute resolution modality that the parents have already agreed to in their parenting plan. If your parenting plan does not have a dispute resolution agreement, your attorney can help you implement one.
Presently, there is no mandate from the state of Colorado concerning Halloween activities. But there has been a slight uptick in diagnosed COVID-19 cases, so it would be wise to check your local government’s website or call them for information should one be issued at the state or local level. Some counties and municipalities have already made announcements as to which, if any, activities they will allow.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s general recommendations concerning trick-or-treating can be found here. It is our best advice to follow these recommendations and to always use your best co-parenting judgment to keep your children safe.
The Harris Law Firm has assisted clients in navigating divorce and family law matters since 1993. We know how difficult these issues can be for parents and their children, which is why we are committed to sorting out all legal matters with progressive strategies and effective communication to help our clients through a collaborative divorce.
Contact The Harris Law Firm online today for trusted, experienced legal counsel.