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Co-Parenting During a Pandemic

03.27.2020 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Co-parenting during a pandemic

On March 25, 2020, Governor Walz announced that our Minnesota schools would continue to be closed until May 4, 2020, and that he is directing Minnesotans to “Stay at Home” from March 27, 2020, to April 10, 2020.  This order has caused many separated parents to have questions regarding how parenting time schedules should work in light of the Minnesota Governor’s “Stay at Home” order.  

The answer may be as simple as this: nothing changes.  The governor’s order specifically carves out an exception to the stay at home provisions allowing for the transportation of children pursuant to a parenting time schedule.  

While the governor’s order gives us guidance that parenting time can and should still occur, it doesn’t answer or provide any practical advice for parents with concerns.  

In this blog, we’ll address some of the most common questions we’re receiving at our office:

What happens if my co-parent is a healthcare worker?  

Children need to continue to be exchanged pursuant to the parenting time schedule in place.  Unless there is an actual risk to the child because of known exposure, parents need to continue to comply with parenting time as ordered.

What happens if my co-parent gets sick?  

If a parent gets sick, the children should stay with the healthy parent.  CDC protocol should be followed. This means no in-person contact with the children until the parent had had 72 hours without symptoms.  Parents should work together in order to provide phone or Facetime/Skype visits with the children while the parent is in home isolation.  Additionally, parents should work to give the parent compensatory parenting time once the parent has recovered.

What happens if my child gets sick?  

If a child gets sick, parents should discuss and come up with a practical agreement for who should care for the child while sick.  Things to consider, are there other siblings or step-siblings that could be affected?  Does one parent have an elderly relative living in the home?  Does one parent have flexible employment that would allow that parent more flexibility to care for the child? 

It becomes imperative for parents to cooperate and come up with the arrangement that makes the most sense for the child.  CDC protocol should be followed to home isolate the child.  Parents should work together to allow for phone or Facetime/Skype contact with the child while in home isolation.  Additionally, parents should work to give the parent who did not have the child in his/her care compensatory parenting time once the child has recovered.

I’m not an essential employee but my co-parent is. Can I provide child care for my child?  

This situation is an opportunity for parents to work together. 

Minnesota Statute 518.175 Subd 3. provides that courts should allow additional parenting time to provide child care while the other parent is working if the arrangement is reasonable and in the best interests of the children.  If the parents live near each other and have the ability to cooperate with each other, having the non-essential parent provide child care makes sense.  

Minnesota schools are officially closed until May 4, 2020, and e-learning begins on March 30, 2020. It is likely that children are going to need a lot of parent help in the initial stages to get e-learning off the ground.  However, in situations where one parent lives far away, there is domestic violence, or there are other safety concerns, the parenting time schedule should be strictly followed.

What if my co-parent is withholding parenting time from me? Aren’t the courts closed?

While the courts are closed to in-person hearings except in emergency situations and situations of domestic violence, we are finding that many judicial officers are hearing matters via written submission and telephone conference.  Our office has successfully advocated for a healthcare worker parent who was being denied parenting by the other parent due to that parent’s fear that the healthcare worker would infect the children.  If you are being denied parenting time, contact our office – we can help.

Negotiating a temporary change to the parenting time schedule to accommodate work schedules and e-learning during the “safe at home” period can be difficult.  At Henningson & Snoxell, our family law attorneys can offer mediation to parents via Zoom meetings in order to help facilitate a productive conversation.

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