Bellenot & Boufford, LLC
COVID-19 & Parenting Time – Should visitation be suspended?
The Law Firm of Bellenot & Boufford: Serving Connecticut Since 1990
COVID-19 AND PARENTING TIME – SHOULD VISITATION BE SUSPENDED?
Among the many questions my current and prospective clients have at this time, the biggest and most immediate concern regards visitation. Let me be clear from the get-go, current orders are expected to be followed and should be followed if at all possible without a real safety risk concern. No one should look at this health crisis as an opportunity to deprive a parent of time with their children. The question remains, how do we do that safely? What constitutes a real safety risk? Under what circumstances will one be held in contempt if visitation is not allowed?
I don’t have definite answers and judges, like attorneys and lay people, are going to have opinions that differ. If a parent denying visitation acts reasonably and in good faith, contempt is not likely to be found. That being said, the parent denying visitation is going to have to prove that the denial was reasonable and in the best interests of the child. What are the current Executive Orders regarding staying home? How affected is your particular area? Do you or the child or other members of your family have any underlying conditions or are otherwise at-risk given what we have been told by the CDC and other credible sources? Do you have a written doctor’s note concerning your or your child’s exposure? Are you quarantined yourself? What kind of exposure has the other parent had? I urge you to discuss any concerns you have with the other parent as opposed to just unilaterally making a decision to deny visitation.
The courts are not currently hearing these matters so disputes have to be worked out between the parents. Discuss ways to make the visitation as safe as possible. Agreements to limit exposure, keep visitation at home and hand washing may ease concerns. What about agreeing to limit visitation to the outdoors? Offer the use of the yard or suggest a nearby playground, beach or State Park. If not, look to and offer other forms of contact. People all over are utilizing Zoom, FaceTime, and other virtual tools to help them continue contacts for work and socializing. Most of these are free and easy to use. Old fashioned telephone calls are still an option as well. Consider agreeing to more frequent virtual visits and phone calls if personal parenting time is being forfeited. I urge parents to work together during this difficult time and find a solution that is workable. If you need help, contact a mediator. Many, like me, are offering services remotely. Keep a record of any and all efforts to modify visitation. Those that can show a valid concern and attempts to agree to alternate means of contact will ultimately fare better than those that unilaterally deny visitation altogether.
It will be some time before things turn back to normal. The courts will be back-logged with issues upon re-opening. It is in your and your family’s best interest to get through this period as amicably as possible. All the best.