We have all had to adapt to new ways of living life in America during this COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are now ordering their groceries online and driving to a designated parking spot to have them delivered out to their car. Churches and synagogues are holding services by teleconferences. So-called gym rats are either finding online workout classes or are finding creative ways to lift weights at home. Some folks are even looking up YouTube tutorials on how to cut their own hair.
While the coronavirus is showing that Americans can get creative when it comes to adjusting to sheltering in place, divorced couples are finding it is a mixed bag now when it comes to co-parenting their children. How a couple decides to co-parent varies wildly, and it is most definitely challenging during these challenging times.
Some parents are taking advantage of the situation and preventing their children from spending time with their other parent—blatantly ignoring the terms of their custody agreement, while other couples have decided that it might be better to set aside their differences and live together again for the duration of the pandemic so that they can both have time with their children. Many couples have decided to enact temporary arrangements because one parent may work in an essential job and does not want to expose the children to anything.
If your ex-spouse has decided to withhold the children from seeing you, unfortunately, this is not an ideal time to try to seek recourse from the court. Even if your ex-partner is willfully violating your co-parenting custody arrangement, the courts are largely not hearing any cases outside of emergency hearings or cases requiring extraordinary relief, and this may not qualify as an emergency.
What you can do is to try and work it out with your former partner. Set aside any past grievances and communicate with them what is important to you and what is in the best interests of the children. If you can come up with a temporary agreement, you should then document it in writing (either in an email, a series of text messages, or other correspondence).
If your children are currently with their other parent and that parent intends to keep them for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak, you might want to ask to have the children for an extended period of time when the worst is over. You could also ask to have daily time slots where you visit the kids via FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype.
If negotiations towards the prospect of a constructive resolution fail, in the alternative, a contempt petition can be drafted and filed detailing the concerns with the other parent's actions (or lack thereof) and how that is negatively impacting the children. The contempt petition can be filed with the court and your attorney can try to have the court schedule either a phone or video hearing if possible.
Compromising Is Key
The bottom line is that we are all living in unprecedented times, and there is no rulebook for how to live through a pandemic. Compromising with your ex-spouse is the best you can do so that you can continue to see (albeit maybe only via the internet) your children and maintain a relationship with them. If you are involved in a situation that will need immediate attention either now or once the Pennsylvania family courts are back open, contact Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686. Mr. Lento has the experience and compassion you need to navigate these unchartered legal waters.