Arizona Parenting Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives. For those who share custody of their children, it might also have affected the parenting time of one or both parents. In April 2020, Arizona’s Supreme Court issued visitation guidelines for divorced parents to follow during these challenging times. The Court urges divorced parents to follow their existing parenting plans as closely as possible, in order to ensure stability and consistency for their children. In all cases, the Court will take each individual situation into account and determine what is in the best interest of the child in resolving contested issues. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court remained available to hear essential matters, such as new orders for emergency situations. They strongly encouraged divorced parents to work together to resolve any issues, such as coordinating parenting time, before bringing them to the Court for resolution. If both parents agree to modifications to a parenting plan, the Court encourages them to put that agreement in writing and for both to sign it. If modifications to a parenting plan cannot be mutually agreed upon, a request for temporary modification with the Court may be filed under Rule 48, ARFLP.
General Guidelines Parents Should Follow During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Some of the guidelines the Court drafted simply follow common sense. For example, if a parent or child must self-quarantine or restrict access due to COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis, parents should allow liberal telephone or video visits instead of in-person visits.
Parents must comply with existing parenting time orders during the pandemic. The Court notes that even if a parent has an order for sole legal decision-making, that parent is not allowed to alter a court-ordered parenting time plan.
During times that schools would normally be closed for spring break, summer break, fall break and other holidays or vacations, parents should follow the parenting time rules that are in their parenting plan, even if schools are not in-person during these times. If a school closes for public health reasons, this is not to be considered as an extension of school break, holiday, or vacation periods or weekends.
If a parent tests positive for COVID-19 or shares a household with someone who has tested positive or has been exposed to someone testing positive, they should consider modifying parenting orders temporarily and suspending parenting time for 14 days. Additionally, if a parent has traveled internationally within the last 14 days before a scheduled visit with their child, they should suspend parenting time for an additional 14 days of quarantine.
Parenting time in public places should be avoided. Outdoor activities in public places are encourages, as long as parents and children can maintain social distancing from other families.
If supervised parenting time has been ordered, and a supervisor is unavailable, parents should work together to make sure that parenting time occurs in a manner that is safe for their children. This may include finding an alternate supervisor, or conducting parenting time virtually by telephone or video conference.
During exchanges of children, parents should consider neutral public places where fewer people congregate. This may be somewhere like a fire station or police station.
If a parent must miss parenting time due to COVID-19, parents should work together to schedule makeup parenting time, if possible.
Finally, the Court discourages divorced parents from contacting first responders to mediate any problems that arise in coordinating parenting time for their children. First responders must remain available for actual emergencies and support related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In lieu of calling a first responder, contact our Arizona Family Law Firm. If necessary, we can help you to draw up modifications to existing parenting time agreements and file requests for temporary modification with the Court.