01 Apr Should We Continue Doing Parenting Time Exchanges When “Stay at Home” Orders Are in Place?
Generally, yes. Travel restrictions as implemented by the State of Colorado define activities and travel that are necessary to adhere to court orders (including custody orders) to be permitted under the shelter in place orders (see e.g. Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Amended Public Health Order 20-24, p. 5 §III.B(4)(3/24/2020)). Overall, here at BAM we believe the courts will take the view that following court orders with respect to parenting plans is a necessary/mandatory activity under stay at home orders.
We also believe that a lot of judges and courts will be lenient on parents who (in good faith) do not follow court orders/parenting plans out of concern for health and safety. In particular, we believe courts will find it very compelling that parents would decline to exchange their children when either the parent or child are ill (whether or not with coronavirus symptoms), as a compromised immune system can be dangerous for everyone involved. In such circumstances, we expect courts will order make-up parenting time but will be unlikely to take any punitive action against such a parent. In that same vein, we are also finding that courts are less likely to believe it is prudent for parents to follow parenting plans that require out-of-state or out-of-county travel right now.
However, it is also true that most counties are running only limited operations in the courts (so the ability to enforce court orders and parenting plans is very limited right now). This may create a lot of potential lawsuits down the road, especially if parents use this public health crisis to unjustly deprive another parent of parenting time and contact with their children.
There has not been a very precise legal playbook written for these times. Here at BAM we are navigating these issues on a case-by-case basis, and learning a lot from individual cases, courts and stories. Thank you all for sharing your lives with us right now! We are privileged to be a part of navigating these times with you. If you have any questions or concerns, please do reach out to us directly (even if just to check in). We will get through this together.