The COVID-19 pandemic has landed us in uncharted territory. To slow the spread of the disease, the Texas government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued various health and safety guidelines, including recommendations on how to keep children healthy and what to do during holiday celebrations.
As a parent concerned about your child's wellbeing and to decrease the risk of contracting COVID, you may stringently adhere to the measures.
You may ensure that you and your child, among other things:
- Wear masks when out in public,
- Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, and
- Avoid gatherings with large groups
And while you are taking what you feel are necessary safeguards to protect your child, if you share custody with their other parent, you might learn that they aren't taking the same precautions you are. On Thanksgiving, they might have taken your child to a gathering with more than 10 people, a situation that could increase the risk of exposure to COVID.
You might be wondering if there's anything you can do in such circumstances. Can you deny visitation with your child's other parent because they didn't follow COVID guidelines and may likely violate measures in the future?
In short, you cannot simply restrict visitation because they are not following health and safety recommendations to the same degree that you are.
Although when you and your child's other parent have possession of your child, you are supposed to act in the best interests of your child, a violation of COVID guidelines is not enough to warrant disregarding your visitation order. Court-ordered agreements are still in effect during the pandemic, which means that, even though you feel that your child's health is at risk when they're with their other parent, you must still adhere to the terms of your visitation schedule. Failure to do so could result in various sanctions, such as being held in contempt, fined, and/or incarcerated.
However, you can take steps to protect your child's health and safety.
Ensuring You and Your Child's Other Parent Are on the Same Page
Although Thanksgiving has passed and your child's other parent has already violated COVID guidelines, you can discuss with them your concerns when measures aren't followed and how you both can work to keep your child safe in the future. For instance, you can attempt to agree about social distancing when your child is around others. You may also ensure that the other parent has your child wear a mask and frequently wash their hands outside of the home.
Informally Modifying Your Visitation Schedule
If your child's other parent would have difficulty following health and safety guidelines, you could seek to modify the visitation schedule with them. As long as your existing order allows it, you and your child's other parent can change the terms of possession and access. This may mean that during the pandemic, you maintain custody of your child to protect their safety and welfare.
Of course, you also want to ensure that your child has some interaction with their other parent. Thus, if you make an informal visitation modification that allows you to keep your child more often, you might also want to explore options, such as setting up frequent video chats with their other parent, to ensure your child has contact wit them.
Having a Court Modify Your Order
We understand that communication between parents can be difficult and discussions may not lead to favorable resolutions. We're also aware that if a child's other parent isn't adhering to safety measures, they could be putting the child and others at risk of contracting a serious disease.
If this is your situation, you can ask the court to modify your order. The court will consider whether a substantial change of circumstances has adversely affected your child's best interest and warrants an updated visitation schedule.
Because we are living in unprecedented times, it might not be clear what steps you can take to protect your child's health. Before taking any action that may affect your visitation schedule, speak with our Denton attorneys at The Law Office of Gregory C. Goline.
Call us at (940) 400-0475 or contact us online today.