Shared Parental Responsibility and Timesharing in Florida in this Time of COVID-19 Pandemic

The current pandemic caused by COVID-19 (a/k/a novel coronavirus) has upset almost everyone’s routines. Miami, Miami Beach and many others in South Florida were, as of March 25, under a “shelter in place” or “safer at home” order. Businesses are closed, churches are closed, schools are closed, and many parents may be unable to attend work, as well. If you are a divorced parent with children of that marriage, one question that may be at the forefront of your mind is… how do the current circumstances affect my timesharing schedule? You may have concerns about doing an exchange due to infection risks or because of the current governmental orders in place, but you may also have concerns about deviating from the court-ordered schedule for fear of facing a contempt of court charge later. For answers to you pressing questions about timesharing, be sure that you’re getting advice from a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney.

An article recently published by Business Insider focused on this. The answer to this unprecedented question, as is true for so many legal matters, is… it depends. If, for example, you have primary responsibility for your children and the children’s other parent is infected with this virus, then the legal system is not going to require you to give that parent timesharing while she/he’s infected. This may be made even simpler because, if she/he’s infected, she/he probably will insist that you keep the kids until her/his period of contagiousness (and risk to the children) passes. On the other hand, if your children’s other parent isn’t infected, but her/his current partner’s coworker’s spouse is, that probably isn’t enough basis for refusing to facilitate timesharing.

One key thing to know is that there is no law that is, as lawyers call it, exactly “on point.” There is no Florida Statute or court case that says what you should do about timesharing during a global viral pandemic. However, one thing that the courts have stressed, time and again, is the importance of parents working together collaboratively in the best interests of their children.

If, for example, your children’s other parent has the virus, you and she/he are permitted (and, in fact, should) work together collaboratively to adjust your timesharing schedule to the extent necessary. Just as you might make schedule adjustments to give your ex “make up” visits after she/he missed several scheduled times due to her/his serious illness or hospitalization, you should approach the current circumstances similarly. If your ex lost a week-long spring break visitation and two weekend visits due the outbreak, you and your ex may alter your schedule so that your ex gets an extra week and two weekends sometime later.

Inappropriate unilateral actions may still subject you to contempt penalties

Another thing you should keep in mind is that the potential for facing a contempt charge still exists. Unilaterally denying your ex her/his court-ordered timesharing due to something that is obviously a remote risk of infection could put you at risk of serious penalties. Your ex’s current roommate having COVID-19 is one thing; your ex’s current spouse’s daughter’s schoolteacher’s neighbor having the virus is something very, very different. The more remote the risk of infection, the greater your risk of being found in contempt if you violate the court order on timesharing.

Be safe, be smart, and be willing to work together with your children’s other parent to make parenting plans during this unstable time as “normal” as possible for your children. If you encounter an issue which you and your children’s other parent can’t resolve by yourselves, make sure that you get competent legal advice before you act on your own. The skilled South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to help. For the legal advice and thoughtful solutions you need in these unprecedented times, contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.