I've noticed since the beginning of the pandemic that we'd like to talk about this pandemic in terms of it being a completely novel experience. I mean that we want to think that the issues we are encountering right now are unique and things we have never met before. While I would agree that facing a virus like a coronavirus is unique, and our government's response to quarantine us has also been individual, many of the issues that we face are associated with either of these conditions or anything but unique or once in a lifetime.
As a family law office, our attorneys face challenging issues on our clients with great regularity. We are used to and have become acclimated over the years two advising clients who find themselves in tricky situations. I can't say much of anything with 100% certainty, but I can tell you all that we will continue to face difficult times in our lives over the next year or five years. This is true whether or not the coronavirus fades into oblivion and never darkens our doorsteps again. We are always going to have to make difficult choices and handle difficult circumstances in our lives.
This is what I'm talking about when I mean that many people focus on the virus as if it were something entirely out of the ordinary. Yes, managing the perceived health consequences and difficulties associated with the virus are unique. However, dealing with stress, anxiety, and is she's related to co-parenting for a separated family are not unique to the world of family law—quite the opposite. In the world of family law, we deal with issues associated with problems in co-parenting with great frequency. This, too, will always be a part of your life if you have gone through a child custody or divorce case. That is, they need to be able to balance your parenting priorities with those of an ex-spouse or co-parent.
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that if you and your co-parent do not live together and are not in a relationship with one another, you disagree on Some aspects of how to parent your child. The fact that you all have gone through the trouble of going through a complex family law case tells me that there at some point in time have been issues in your lives when it comes to co-parenting. Think about even the minor problems that have come up in your lives throughout your co-parenting history.
Now that the pandemic and its challenges are staring us all in the face, we need to be more aware that our actions have consequences both immediate and more remote. Whether we agree with the recommendations to stay home or not, these have been the suggestions and recommendations made to us by our government since March. Although there have not been strict quarantines or remain-at-home orders in place for months, the fact remains that we don't know if they will be reinstituted in the future or if modified stay-at-home charges will be set up in their place.
I will write about the subject today of what to do when your co-parent chooses to ignore these stay-at-home orders for recommendations made by the government. The purpose of the blog post isn't to advocate for or against any kind of quarantine orders that the government may issue now or in the future. I'm writing this blog post as a way to discuss issues related to family law. As with anything else related to the law, you have options available to you should your co-parent choose not to act according to what is in your child's best interest.
Option number one: speak to your co-parent directly about your concerns
No matter which of these three options you choose to employ in your specific circumstances, it would make sense to directly address your co-parent if you believe they are putting your child in harm's way. This is true no matter if we're talking about ignoring the benefits of a foreign team or doing anything else with your child that could harm them. This is what I'm talking about when I say that the benefits of learning these lessons during the pandemic could be beneficial to you and your family even after the pandemic comes to an end.
I think we can all agree that all of us have different levels of willingness to take on risks. Some of you may be the type of folks who wash your hands ten times a day no matter what activity you engage in. Others may not perceive as much risk in our world, and your behavior may evidence that position. Taking on risk is something that we all do each in every day. Simply getting out of bed and making breakfast in the morning comes with some level of chance that we're all willing to tolerate. However, risk tolerance becomes especially important when dealing with a viral pandemic.
Getting back to what we were discussing earlier, you and your co-parent may have differing views regarding many issues of parenting. The most obvious place where I could see you and your Co-parent differing when it comes to raising your child during this pandemic is having a difference of opinion on How much your child should be going out and about in the world right now. You may be of the idea that your child should be kept at home as much as possible. School, extracurricular activities, family events, church, going out to eat, etc., should all be off-limits for now to keep your child safe. On the other hand, your co-parent may not perceive as much risk for your child to be out and about, and he or she may be taking your child to all these places during their time with your son or daughter.
In your mind, this may go beyond just a difference of opinion on a parenting topic. The issue of your child's going out into the world during this time may more broadly be an issue that deals with the health and safety of your child at a very critical level. The news reports and details about people getting sick and even passing away may have had a profound effect on you, and you may be objectively concerned with your child and their safety when they are with your co-parent. What can you do if you find yourself in a situation like this?
The most direct advice I can give you would be to speak to your co-parent about your concerns. If possible, you should talk person to person with your co-parent so that they can not only hear your voice but also see your body language. A big part of communication is nonverbal communication, which can be lost in situations where you communicate over the phone. If you cannot communicate with your co-parent in person, you should have a conversation over the phone. Allowing them to hear your voice and be able to share ideas and concerns rapidly may be able to help you all resolve in somewhat quick order.
If you find yourself in a situation where you and your co-parent are entirely unable to communicate, you may be best served by utilizing technology. I am not a huge fan of text messaging to communicate broad ideas or issues, but there is one option that you can choose from. Many co-parenting websites exist to help persons like you and your co-parent communicate with one another if in-person or over-the-phone talks do not work for you all. Your final orders from the family court may instruct you all on using these co-parenting websites to help further your co-parenting relationship.
The bottom line is that you need to be clear with your co-parent about your position on this issue and what risks you believe are inherent in allowing your child to go into the world and act as if there were not a pandemic going on. Doing so with facts and objective information Is a better place to start, in my opinion, than simply utilizing emotion to make your arguments for you.
Option number 2 and option #3: speak to a family law attorney and consider filing a lawsuit
These are, admittedly, the most extreme options for you to choose from out of the three. It's my experience working in the world of family law that if you communicate your concerns honestly with your co-parent, they would be willing to meet you halfway on topics like the health and safety of your child. However, if you cannot resolve this issue directly with your co-parent, you may want to speak to an attorney about your options.
Speaking to an attorney before taking legal action is a great course to go down because you can determine what case, if any, you have as far as filing an enforcement or modification lawsuit. I specify these two types of patients because these are the most typical secondary family law cases to be filed after an initial child custody or divorce case. An enforcement case seeks to enforce the terms of a family court order when an alleged violation has occurred. A modification case aims to modify a court order if the circumstances of you, your co-parent, or your child have materially and substantially changed since the rendition of that prior order.
From my perspective, the tricky part of filing an enforcement lawsuit when your co-parent decides to ignore quarantine recommendations is that it is likely nothing explicitly stated in your orders that require them to follow government recommendations regarding the health and safety of children. For instance, I seriously doubt that any paragraphs or language in your family court order would necessitate either of you to follow a recommendation by the government to quarantine yourself and your child.
More broadly speaking, I suppose that you could make arguments that your ex-spouse's actions put your child's health in jeopardy and as a parent and conservator of your child, each of you have to do what is best for their health and well-being. However, to modify a court order, we would likely need to be in a situation where the pandemic is expected to last for an extended time. As I'm sure it is yours, I hope this is only a temporary change to our usual way of life. As far as enforcement is concerned, you need to have specific evidence of each violation and dates on which the violations occurred. Considering quarantine avoidance as a violation of a court order, you would likely need to talk to a family law attorney about it before proceeding.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. We are here to serve you and our community in whatever capacity we can. Flexible payment plans, as well as methods of representation, are available to our clients. Contact us today to learn more about how we can serve you and your family.