Arizona Family Court Guidelines for Parenting Time of Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As you may expect, our office has been inundated with questions regarding the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on parenting time orders. While COVID-19 has caused a great deal of uncertainty, the Arizona Supreme Court has published guidelines effective as of April 1, 2020. The stated goal of the guidelines is “to encourage you to follow your existing parenting plan as closely as possible.” The guidelines can be accessed in their entirety here, but this blog post will cover the points that address the most common questions we have received:
- Generally: The COVID-19 pandemic is not a reason to deny parenting time. In particular, a parent is not permitted to deny parenting time based upon the other parent’s unwillingness to discuss precautionary measures taken or belief that the other parent’s precautions are insufficient.
- Compliance with Existing Orders: Existing parenting time and visitation orders must be complied with unless and until the parties agree otherwise or the orders are modified.
- Due to the fact that many parenting plans include provisions that are dependent on a child’s school schedule (g., pick ups after school, spring break parenting time), parenting time should continue as if the children are still attending school under the school calendar of the relevant district.
- To put a fine point on it, the Arizona stay-at-home order does not preclude travel for the purpose of parenting time exchanges.
Modification of Orders: While the courts do encourage parties to cooperate and reach agreements to modify orders in the child’s best interests, it is important to note that self-help is not an acceptable course of action! If an agreement cannot be reached, the order must be modified. Even in uncertain times such as these, failure to comply with existing parenting time or visitation orders may subject a party to legal penalties including but not limited to being held in contempt of court, assessed fines, and subject to other sanctions.
- Temporary Modifications to Consider: There are certain changes to your parenting plan that might make sense given the current circumstances. Please note that these changes can be agreed to for a particular period of time to avoid any later dispute about whether the changes were intended to outlast the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If parenting time is ordered to occur in a public place, consider a less-populated park and avoid common-contact surfaces such as playground equipment as opposed to the mall or restaurant you may have used in the past.
- Consider voluntarily suspending parenting time for a period of 14 days if you have tested positive for COVID-19, been exposed to COVID-19, or recently traveled internationally. Such agreements should also consider make-up parenting time at a later date! In cases where in-person parenting time cannot or should not occur, consider the possibility of telephone or videoconference visits.
- If parenting time is ordered to be supervised and the supervisor has become unavailable, consider finding another supervisor or other means to ensure the child’s safety and wellbeing.
At Dodge & Vega, PLC, we are monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects in the field of family law, and we are committed to keeping our clients informed and up-to-date with the most recent guidance available.
If you are a parent and you are now being told you cannot have your parenting time due to the COVID-19, then contact our office to schedule a free consultation with our firm and know your rights. 480-656-8333.
Kevin Whitacre, Dodge & Vega PLC
Dodge & Vega PLC founded by Ben Dodge, attorney at law. Ben owns and manages a law firm of Affordable Arizona Bankruptcy, Family Law, and Personal Injury Lawyers. He is a nationally certified trial attorney, entrepreneur, endurance Athlete, and extreme Ultra Cyclist.
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