On March 27, the Maryland Judiciary issued a Statement from the Maryland Judiciary On Matters Concerning Children & Families. This Statement is helpful guidance for separated families who have a court order regarding parenting time. In this writer’s opinion, it can also be viewed as a policy statement of the Maryland Judiciary that parenting time/schedule should continue as normally as possible and health and safety allow under these circumstances. The Statement also suggests a lens through which Judges are encouraged to view unilateral changes to an established schedule once the Courts reopen and resume normal operations.
The Governor’s Stay At Home Order issued on March 30. It clearly allows court ordered travel, which would make transitioning children between households for court-ordered parenting time as essential activity. What it left less clear is whether transportation for agreed upon (but not yet reduced to a court order) parenting time is also considered essential.
Section II.b.iii of the Executive Order includes the following as an “essential activity”:
“Caring for a family member, friend, pet, or livestock in another household or location, including, without limitation, transporting a family member, friend, pet, or livestock animal for essential health and safety activities, and to obtain necessary supplies and services”
While Interpretive Guidance or a clarifying Order would be preferable, my inquiries of State authorities will have to suffice. In response to which I received the following reassurance:
“Caring for children and making sure they are in a safe and proper location is consistent with Section II.b.iii. of the Executive Order. The intent of the Order is to have all residents stay in their homes unless for an essential activity. The exchange of children to ensure continuity of adequate care and supervision falls within an essential activity.”
Obviously, each situation is unique and would benefit from discussion with a professional before making unilateral changes to the parenting status quo. Such unprecedented times and limited access to the Courts call for problem-solving and flexibility as circumstances evolve.
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.