Child Custody and Coronavirus Lockdown Safety: Questions Answered

Uncontested Divorce Mediation

Posted July 9, 2020

Child custody is already a complicated agreement between separated and divorced parents, and this coronavirus situation is not making things easier. First, travel was restricted so that parents in two different cities have a harder time trading custody. Then we were all ordered to shelter-in-place and avoid contact with anyone who is not currently living in your house. But what does that mean for parents and children who need to continue their child custody schedule? Is it fair to kids or parents for children to be locked-down in only one household? Is it legal?

denver divorce mediator

Today, we’re here to answer your burning questions about how the coronavirus lockdown will influence your child custody agreement. Whether you are already divorced or starting Denver divorce mediation and worried about the future, we hope we can shine a little light on the situation. 

What’s Best for the Children: Absolute Virus Safety

Whatever your divorce agreement says, whatever you want to do, whatever you think is safe, and whatever your children ask for; safety is the number one concern. Consider, first and foremost, the safety of your children and the safety of you and your co-parent. Children rarely see serious symptoms from this illness but even healthy adults are at risk of severe symptoms and death. So before we get started with options based on viral containment, remember never to take a risk that could get your child sick or leave them without a parent. 

Now to those questions we promised:

Can My Spouse Keep the Kids Because of the COVID-19 Lockdown?

If your children are not currently with you during the lockdown, the most burning question in your mind is likely whether your ex-spouse can lawfully keep the kids during the entire duration of this pandemic, however long it lasts. Legally, the answer is that they can’t deny you access and may be obligated to release care to you. However, it is likely that enforcement courts will overlook this oversight, even if your ex does not have primary or physical custody, because viral safety is paramount.

Your ex and kids together in a home make one virally contained household. If it does not become safe for your children to traverse into your household, they will need to stay where they are.

If you’re worried about their environment or supplies, we strongly suggest you work with your ex to ensure the children have everything they need. Up to and including a little teamwork and non-mandated child support to make it all work for the kids.

I Have the Kids, How Can I Give My Co-Parent Their Custody Time Safely?

What if you’re on the other side of this equation? Most exes are not vindictive and are working together to co-parent. You may know that your custody time is almost up (or already lapsed) during the lockdown, but are unsure if it’s safe to send the children back to your ex. Your ex may be asking insistently, or you both might be debating the safety right now.

The answer is “Probably No” because you are currently part of two separate virally-contained households.  If your children pass between households, one of two things could potentially happen.

  1.  Your ex might have a symptomless version of COVID-19, without knowing, and make your children sick when they arrive.
  2.  You and your children might have asymptomatic COVID-19 and give it to your ex, which could be potentially fatal.

There is one potentially safe alternative, which we’ll cover next.

Can Children Pass Safely Between Parent Households?

Generally not. Right now, it is unsafe to mingle households. However, in times of emergency and necessity, there are methods to reduce the risk of blending or changing households.

First, both parents and all children need to isolate for 14 days. This is the time it takes for COVID-19 to run its course, if anyone has it right now. By isolate, we mean have contact with no one. Don’t leave your house. Have everything delivered and sanitize it before you touch, then discard all external packaging quickly and wash hands before allowing anyone to touch their face. Both households maintain complete isolation for 14 days.

Now, both households are at the lowest possible chance of having and passing the virus to each other. Continue to maintain isolation as you transport the children to your co-parent. If possible, do not stop the car or touch anything when outside the homes.

Only attempt this if absolutely necessary. If possible, manage a child support system instead to keep children safe in their current household. If there are grandparents in the target home, do not perform this maneuver, as grandparents are the most at-risk family members.

How Can I Simulate Shared Custody Without Putting Anyone At Risk?

The safest thing to do during the lockdown is to balance child custody with remote contact. This is how everyone else is keeping in touch with loved ones who were not living with them at the time of lockdown so even if it is challenging, we are all going through this challenge together.

Your best tools are video conferencing, live chat, and shared online games. With these, you can connect and even play with children who cannot currently join you in the home. Parents who currently have the kids, do everything you can to help maintain dual-parenting at a distance by setting the children up with laptops or tablets with an easy route to the right programs.

Remember to secure your devices (and apps) so that children do not accidentally contact strangers or other people on your contact list. It’s also reasonable to get very sturdy cases for your tech or buy a child-safe tablet for co-parenting face time.

Here at Split Simple, we understand how hard it can be for separated and divorced parents to handle the sudden top in your child custody schedule. For both the parent with the kids and the one without, there are burdens to bear during this lockdown. Do your best to support each other as co-parents emotionally, logistically and, if necessary, financially. For more relevant divorce advice and solutions or to facilitate your divorce through safe no-contact mediation, Contact Split Simple today or give us a call at 720-501-4600 for Denver divorce mediation.

Split Simple

1624 Market Street #202

Denver, CO 80202