Parenting Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Many parents have questions regarding parenting time during the COVID-19 crisis. In an attempt to answer some of those questions, the Superior Court of Pima County has offered some guidelines for parents to follow.
In general, the Court encourages parents to exercise their existing parenting plans as closely as possible to ensure that their children continue to have consistency and stability in their lives during this difficult and confusing time. However, the Court does recognize that each individual case does have a unique set of facts and circumstances which could require changes to the parenting plan during this pandemic.
If changes need to be made to your plan during the pandemic, the Court encourages the parents to first attempt to work together to revise the parenting time schedule. The Court encourages parents to place the modified plan in writing—preferably signed by both parents. If the parents cannot agree, the Court is accepting emergency filings for temporary modification of parenting time under Rule 48 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. Be aware, however, the requesting party must be able to prove to the Court that, “there is reason to believe the child’s present environment may seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.”
Denial of Parenting Time
In general, the COVID-19 pandemic is not a reason to deny parenting time. However, in cases where a parenting and/or child must self-quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus, parenting should permit liberal telephonic and/or videoconference visits with the other parent.
Spring/Summer/Fall Breaks, Vacation of Holiday Time
The Court has stated while the schools may be closed, all breaks and holiday schedules should be treated as if the children were still attending school under the school calendar of the child’s school district. Closure of the school for the pandemic will not be considered an extension of any break, holiday, vacation period or weekend. If the child would normally travel by air for his/her parenting time, the parents should consider ground transportation instead. If parenting time is to take place in a location that is disproportionately impacted by the virus, the parents are encouraged to consider alternative options for parenting time to take place. If the parties cannot agree, they should seek direction from the Court.
Supervised Parenting Time/Parenting Time in Public Places
If supervised parenting time is ordered by the Court, and the supervisor is unavailable, the parties should work together to find an alternative supervisor for parenting time, or, if that is not possible, parenting time should be conducted via videoconferencing or by phone with the primary residential parenting acting as the supervisor.
If parenting time is ordered to take place in public locations only, the parties should avoid taking the children to any public location where people routinely gather and touch common surfaces such as play equipment and picnic tables. Outings and activities should take place in locations where parentings and children can continue to social distance and avoid contact with common-contact surfaces. If this is not possible, parenting time should be conducted via videoconferencing or telephone.
Exchanges should occur in locations where fewer people gather or touch public surfaces. If the normal exchange location is closed, the parents should choose an alternative nearby location. If safety is a concern, the parents should consider doing exchanges at a fire or police station.
Parents are reminded that this pandemic is as stressful for children as it is for the parents—if not more so. The more that children can have a sense of normalcy and routine during this difficult time, the better off the children will be.