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Category: Child Support

Co-Parenting in a Global Pandemic

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Written by Olivia St. Clair Long, JD on 3.30.20

For many divorced parents with children, one of the most contentious issues is making changes to the agreed co-parenting schedule. However, in these tumultuous times involving school closures, work-from-home decrees, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders, many parents may be wondering if the normal rules still necessarily apply. For those parents residing in Cook County, Hon. Judge Grace Dickler, the presiding judge of the Domestic Relations Division, issued some guidance on March 18, 2020, in the form of General Administrative Order 2020-01. This order states that the existing court-ordered parenting time schedule should apply in all instances, and that “possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic . . . and such closure shall not be considered a day off from school.

But what if a parent feels that continuing to honor the previous parenting time schedule presents a danger to the health of either the child(ren) or other family members? Such instances might include a custodial parent who is an essential worker or first responder who must continue to report to work and potentially face a higher-than-average risk to exposure. Other parents may feel that their co-parent who is not in such a position is not exercising proper caution when it comes to social distancing and limiting outings. What should you do if these situations apply to you? Firstly, referring back to Judge Dickler’s General Order, do not summarily or unilaterally attempt to modify your parenting time schedule, or deny access to your co-parent. You should contact your attorney immediately if you have concerns that continuing to follow your court-ordered parenting schedule presents a possible danger to anyone; an ideal first step in this instance would be for Counsel for both parties to communicate regarding these concerns and attempt to reach a mutually-agreeable temporary solution. Wherever possible, both parties and their counsel should attempt to come to an agreement and submit an Agreed Order remotely to memorialize any temporary changes to the parenting schedule. While the Domestic Relations Court in Cook County is available to rule on emergency motions, both attorneys and parties should consider the necessity of filing an emergency motion very carefully to avoid further straining already-reduced court personnel. The reduced access to the courts during the pandemic is unprecedented; therefore information on how to proceed with co-parenting and other child custody questions during this time is subject to change. The best course of action is to maintain close communication with your co-parent and your child custody attorney at this time.

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