Child Custody in the Time of COVID-19: Temporary Schedule Changes
Can Parents Temporarily Change Their Parenting Time Schedule During the State of Emergency?
Short Answer: Yes, if they jointly agree.
Governor Hogan’s March 30 Stay At Home Order requires Maryland residents to stay at home, with certain exceptions for “essential activities” which includes leaving home for parenting time transitions. And per the Maryland Judiciary’s Statement on Matters Concerning Children & Families, court orders for parenting time are still in effect although parents who agree can jointly decide to temporarily change their Orders and written Agreements.
Temporary schedule changes might be appropriate and unavoidable if:
· A parent or child falls ill
· High risk of exposure due to a parent’s living or work situation
· Temporary changes in a parent’s work schedule & demands
A change need not be permanent. A change can be temporary – whether for as long as the Stay At Home Order remains in effect or until a certain date. If a stated date is not long enough, parents can also agree to extend it.
Ideally, any agreement should be in writing and signed by the parents. But this may not be practical or possible. At the least, have a written communication (for example, confirming correspondence between attorneys if represented; e-mail or text between parents) confirming the temporary changes.
Carry a copy with you when transporting the children for parenting time exchanges in case you are stopped and asked why you are out.
How to Agree Upon Temporary Changes:
Temporary changes can be made:
· Between parents, which is likely to be informal if not put in a signed writing or
· More formally through:
o Attorney negotiation and written confirmation or
o Online or telephone mediation and written confirmation.
What is less clear, right now, is if parents cannot agree about changing the schedule, whether the Courts will be able to assist during their extremely limited operations.
The ongoing uncertainty and change need not create uncertainty for children or their parents over parenting time schedules. If your circumstances require flexibility in the schedule, temporary changes can be made. If in doubt and not on the same page with your co-parent, reach out to your attorney or a self-help legal service provider for advice.
Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law.