How does the coronavirus impact my Parenting Plan?
By Kristen Sparks of Garnholz Sparks
In response to the global pandemic, local and state governments have issued a variety of “stay home” orders. The rules seem to constantly be changing and you may be wondering how these orders impact your parenting plan. The information in this post is based on the orders in St. Louis City, St Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County and Lincoln County in Missouri as of March 25, 2020.
If you have a court ordered parenting plan, either from a final Judgment or a temporary order while your case is pending, that order remains in effect. St. Louis County’s Stay Home Order, which is the most restrictive of the Stay Home Orders in our area, clearly designates custody exchanges as an essential activity. This means that unless you and your co-parent agree otherwise, you should continue to follow your current parenting plan.
Any deviations from your current parenting plan require agreement between both parents or a Court Order. The Missouri Supreme Court has suspended in-person court proceedings except in certain urgent circumstances. This means your best bet is to come to an agreement with your co-parent. If you are unable to do so, reach out to your attorney to see if they can negotiate on your behalf.
Suggestions for Temporary Changes:
1. Adjust your schedule so that the number of overnights in a two-week period remain the same but exchanges are limited.
2. If one parent has an essential job that requires them to leave their home, temporarily limit their in-person custody time and use Zoom, Google Hangout or FaceTime so they can speak to the children regularly.
3. If either parent shows cold or flu symptoms, halt exchanges until said parent has been symptom free for fourteen (14) days.
Best Practices for Exchanges:
1. Keep hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies ready. Have your children wash their hands immediately when they come into your custody and again when they get into your house. The coronavirus can live on surfaces for up to three days, so wipe down every item that comes with the children. You may also consider having them change clothes and wash those that they are wearing upon arrival.
2. Practice social distancing – stay six feet away from anyone not a member of your household.
3. Be flexible – we are in uncharted territory and there will be bumps in the road as we adjust to the new restrictions.
The rules and best practices are constantly evolving as we learn more about this virus. We are here to help you navigate this scary and uncertain time. If you have questions about your parenting plan during this pandemic, please call the attorneys at Garnholz Sparks at (314) 725-5430 to set up a consultation.