Yaffa Family Law Group
By: Doreen Yaffa

Co-parenting in the time of ‘new normal’

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On April 1, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order Number 20-91, more popularly referred to as Florida’s version of the “Stay-at-home Order” that have been issued in many states to eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic. The order, which can affect co-parenting, takes effect on April 3 at 12:01 a.m. and expires at the end of the month unless extended.

As many clients, friends and colleagues grapple with this “new normal,” many divorced and/or separated families who are co-parenting children are concerned as to how this order affects their ability to timeshare.

In response to the inquiries received about co-parenting, here are the highlights of the order and what it means for your family.

First, the executive order restricts Floridians’ movements and personal interactions to those necessary to  obtain or provide essential services, or to conduct essential activities.

The order defines “essential activities” as:

  1. Attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and other houses of worship
  2. Consistent with social distancing guidelines, participating in recreational activities such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running, or swimming
  3. Taking care of pets
  4. Caring for or otherwise assisting a loved one or friend.

The order makes it very clear that a social gathering in a public space is not an essential activity. It restricts the congregation of groups larger than 10 people in any public space.

The essential activity of caring for a loved one can be interpreted in a number of ways. Is caring for your child on your designated time-sharing considered an essential activity? Arguably, yes.

Will I be penalized for picking up or dropping off my child for timesharing? Most likely, not. However, when possible, parents should make their best attempts at co-parenting. We are dealing with the reality of this pandemic, so this is not a black-or-white issue. There is no specific right or wrong answer.

Can I be held in contempt of my court order for a failure to exercise my timesharing if I am concerned about exposure of the virus to/from myself, my child and/or any other person in my household who is elderly and/or has a compromised immune system? Arguably, no. It is unlikely that a judge will consider these circumstances an intentional and/or willful violations of your court order.

As parents, we must ask ourselves whether it is best for our child or children to remain at one home for an extended amount of time so that we contribute our best efforts to reduce the spread of this virus. We also want to be flexible when it comes to affording the other parents make-up time or whether applying hard, fast rules will turn out best.

While families have their own issues and turmoil, we must see this as an opportunity to teach our children many useful lessons of life, especially in times like these where every day is unpredictable. “Lead by example,” as they say.