Can I modify my child’s time-sharing because of COVID?
Many parents in Jacksonville are in a dilemma about what to do about time-sharing during the COVID-19 Pandemic. What do you do if the other parent is positive for COVID-19 and they insist on exercising their time-sharing rights? What do you do if the primary residential parent tests positive for COVID-19? What do you do about time-sharing if the minor child tests positive for COVID-19?
Under Florida statute 61.13 (2)(c ) the basic premise of family law is that the Court will look at what is in the “best interest” of the minor child(ren). As a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney, we must also look at how this conforms with the public policy of the state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights, responsibilities, and joys of childrearing. See 61.13 (2)(c ) (1)
1. What do you do if the other parent is positive for COVID-19 and they insist on exercising their time-sharing rights.
In Florida, the primary residential parent has a responsibility to protect the minor child and should not allow the minor child to go with the other parent. Florida courts are charged with determining what is in the “best interest “of the minor child and if faced with a parent who tests positive for COVID-19 but who insists on exercising his/her time-sharing rights, most likely would temporarily restrict the time-sharing of that parent to Facetime, telephone contact or any other communication method until the parent provides a negative test.
2. What do you do if the primary residential parent tests positive for COVID-19?
Again, the primary residential parent is charged with the responsibility of protecting the minor child. If the primary residential parent tests positive, they should try to make arrangements with the secondary residential parent for the minor child to stay with that parent until the primary parent completes a quarantine period and tests negative. If the primary parent doesn’t take that action, Court intervention may be required. The Court must look at what is in the “best interest” of the minor child and likely would rule that a temporary change of residence for the child would be essential to protect the child from COVID-19.
3. What do you do if the minor child tests positive for COVID-19?
The primary residential parent is charged with the primary care of the minor child. Consequently, if the minor child tests positive for COVID-19, the primary parent should take the necessary steps to isolate the child and place them in quarantine for the 14 days suggested by the CDC and have the child tested again before allowing the child to break quarantine. This may not set well with the secondary residential parent as they may insist on exercising their time-sharing. The Court would likely agree with the primary residential parent and not hold that parent in contempt for failure to cooperate with a time-sharing schedule.
Under Florida Statutes 61.13, the Court is charged with looking out for the best interest of the minor children that are subject to their jurisdiction. One would hope that the parents of the minor child would want what is in “the best interest” of the minor child. However, there are still many people out in the world that do not believe that COVID-19 is real or is all that dangerous. Consequently, the Family Courts of this state as well as many other states will be tested and forced to step in to protect the minor children within their jurisdiction utilizing state laws designed to protect minors such as Florida Statute 61.13. Let’s all use common sense and follow the guidance of those who are in the know about these issues. The CDC has laid down certain guidelines and the Court will likely look toward those guidelines and the Florida Statute in determining what is truly in the best interest of the minor child. Contact your Florida Child Custody Attorney to find out how the facts of your case can be advocated on your behalf.