By: Jodi Argentino, Esq.
While some New Jersey judges are compelling parenting time exchanges between co-parents who share custody, some others are not for fear that children will carry Coronavirus from home to home, OR will be exposed to it at one home because of conditions there. Parties should try to work together and share information, discuss arrangements, and come up with a concept that works for them during this trying time. Risk of exposure during transfers between homes is especially a concern for children (and other household members) with compromised immune systems & preexisting medical conditions.
So, what if it is supposed to be “your” Easter Sunday or Passover Seder with your child but your child, for safety and health reasons, has been staying with your co-parent during the Coronavirus ‘lock-down’? Aren’t you still entitled to “your” holiday time?
Perhaps, but if you already have a situation where you know your child is safe and healthy, why compromise that for the sake of a holiday?
While holidays are important for family time, ultimately and frankly, maintaining life is MORE important. We can sometimes fall into the “it won’t happen to me” trap, feeling that we are removed from risk and just want our days to continue without interruption. However, at this point, over 40,000 people in our state have been diagnosed with Coronavirus so it is more likely than not that someone in everyone’s circle of friends/family has been affected. As parents, most of us would agree that our children’s health and safety generally take precedence over every other consideration and that same concept should be applied here, even if it means significant changes to the business-as-usual of your parenting time schedule.
I once represented a parent of three children and the other parent was only permitted supervised parenting time for months (by consent) for safety reasons. The other parent, however, had an attorney who argued that the parent should have unsupervised parenting time on Christmas Day “because it was Christmas” even though they acknowledged that they would not request that provision on the day before or the day after Christmas. This was one of the more absurd suggestions I’ve ever experienced from opposing counsel. Just because a day has a “title” or holiday attached to it, doesn’t make the rules different. It doesn’t mean risks and conditions that were present the day before or the day after are magically erased on the day OF the holiday.
It is totally understandable that someone may want to have holiday time, but if the circumstances are unsafe, remember that celebrations can be postponed. If you are the parent with the child in your care, facilitate contact in every virtual way you can: Facetime, Skype, and Zoom are fabulous ways to share certain traditions (like the arrival of the Easter Bunny or Seder dinner for Passover). It is your involvement and attention that your children seek and it is the love that they can feel from you, even from miles away, that really matters.