Four months into the coronavirus pandemic, families are still facing difficult choices as school years are beginning and plans are being changed with frequency. As more school districts around the state are changing their plans for in-person education this year, families are struggling to determine how to move forward. These decisions can be even more complicated for families with divorced or separated parents.
Our local domestic relations judges are urging families to proactively prepare for the potential resurgence of coronavirus to prevent issues when and if the resurgence occurs. Court calendars are full as Courts are becoming operational after the emergency Orders that closed Indiana Courts to all non-essential hearings. Courts are seeking to decrease the number of emergency filings through proactive planning by families.
Parents who are seeking to make proactive plans should consider discussing the following areas:
- Their child getting sick, and how that will be handled depending on their symptoms;
- Their child being tested, and when that should occur;
- Their child tests positive for COVID;
- If one parent or if a member of one parent’s household tests positive for COVID;
- Their child’s school stops providing in-person instruction, or in any other way changes their plan for the upcoming school year;
- The viability of virtual learning in each parents’ home, taking into consideration access to supervision and stable internet connection;
- How each parent wants to handle potential exposure to COVID, both with the child or with either parent;
- Each parent’s expectations for social distancing and mask wearing for their child, as well as the members of each household; and
- Emergency plans in case of hospitalization.
This list is not exhaustive but is illustrative of the areas that can be discussed and agreed upon prior to an issue occurring. Parents may informally agree to deviate from their court ordered parenting plans if that better suits their family during the coronavirus pandemic. As long as the parents are in agreement, reaching an agreement is preferred. The Courts are strongly discouraging parents from making unilateral changes in court ordered parenting plans.
If parents seek to have a proactive plan in place but are unable to reach an agreement, the Courts are encouraging parents to pursue alternative dispute resolution, or mediation, for assistance in resolving their disagreements. The experienced attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff, P.C. provide affordable virtual mediations and can assist families seeking to make proactive plans during the coronavirus pandemic.