Can Parents Ignore Custody Orders During a Quarantine for COVID-19?
A white child wearing a blue disposable mask sits on their mother's lap, mother is also wearing a blue disposable mask. The child is receiving a vaccination from what looks to be a Black healthcare provider at the right of the frame, the vaccination giver, in a while lab coat, wears both a blue disposable mask and a clear face shield.

The COVID-19 Omicron variant is impacting many right now. This newest variant is so highly contagious, even adults and children who are fully vaccinated and have had a booster shot can catch it if exposed. According to the CDC, Omicron is also affecting children far more than previous versions of the coronavirus.

With that in mind, do divorced parents need to strictly adhere to court-mandated custody orders if quarantining becomes necessary for themselves, the other parent or the kids? Here’s what you need to consider.

  • Even a pandemic doesn’t make a Court Order invalid; it cannot be ignored. If you have a Court-Ordered Parenting Plan, you should continue to follow it if possible. 
  • That said, the courts expect co-parents to communicate with each other and show flexibility when necessary. Communicate with your ex if you have not done so already. Discuss temporary alternate arrangements in the event one of you becomes ill and needs to quarantine to keep the kids from getting sick. This is especially important for anyone who has a health issue that puts them at greater risk of hospitalization if they contract COVID.
  • If you don’t agree with how the other parent is handling things, re-read your Parenting Plan for how decisions are to be made and what decisions must be made together.  You might believe that the other parent isn’t keeping your kids safe from people, places and events where they’re likely to be exposed. You might believe that attendance at a family event is unsafe. If your Parenting Plan is silent on these issues, look to the guidelines and regulations issued by the government. If a complete shutdown hasn’t been ordered, you can’t force a parent to stay home if they do not agree with you. 
  • If your child is sick, and you and the other parent are not in agreement about treatment, re-read your Parenting Plan for how medical decisions should be made. If your child’s illness is non-critical, you should still follow the regular schedule in your Parenting Plan for exchanges. You can ask the other parent to delay or modify the schedule due to the illness (and get those changes in writing!) but if the other parent refuses, you should follow the schedule. Make sure you provide all medical information and updates about the illness to the other parent so that things can be appropriately monitored after the exchange. 
  • If you have no childcare because school closed or your daycare closed, you need to communicate with the other parent to come up with a plan for childcare coverage. Some parents are being allowed to work from home but others aren’t. Some parents have more flexibility than others. Check to see if your parenting plan lists one of the parents as “on-duty” during the work day – that parent is to provide care if your child is at home.  Your Parenting Plan might also require that both parents agree upon a childcare provider. 
  • You may have to communicate with the other parent more than usual. Exchange locations and times may need to be adjusted because school is closed. Prescriptions and medical information may need to be discussed. Childcare coverage could be complicated. Conversations may be uncomfortable but they need to be done. 
  • If you have an upcoming Court date, it is possible that it will be virtual. Each courthouse is treating the situation differently, and even within each courthouse, each Judge is handling their dockets differently. If your court date has been rescheduled, canceled, or is being held virtually, we will contact you.  

The good news is that for children and adults who are fully vaccinated and have had a booster shot, the risk of becoming seriously ill and needing hospitalization are very minimal compared to those who are not according to hospital data and the CDC. Contact your child’s pediatrician for current guidelines regarding vaccinations, COVID-19 testing and masking.

With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. Contact Jones Family Law Group, LLC today for any questions or to set up a consultation.