Visitation and Parenting Time During the Coronavirus - COVID-19 Pandemic

The phone calls have started coming into the office....What do I do about parenting time (visitation) with the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic coming down on us? Fear and anxiety are at an all-time high in these dark days and we are all in uncharted territory about this. Everyone is trying to get a handle on how to move forward and family law courts and lawyers are no exception.

Here is what we know so far...

As of Saturday, March 21, 2020, the Governor of Illinois declared a "Stay in Place Order". You can review a whole copy of the order here. When it discusses travel restrictions in Paragraph 14, it also addresses the issue of children's visitation. There are actually two specific provisions stating that an exception to the travel ban are:

   1) transporting minors and dependents to care for them and,
   2) allowing travel required by a custody agreement.

So in most instances that's must allow Parenting Time and Visitation to continue during the epidemic (at least as of the writing of this post). However, this situation is fast moving so stay tuned.

This also does not necessarily cover specific or unique situations. Unique situations may include situations where:

  • Maybe a child is not healthy to begin with and has a weakened immunity.
  • Maybe there are sick individuals at the other parent's household. 
  • Maybe the other parent is not following the "Stay in Place" order and unnecessarily exposing the child to crowds.
  • Maybe the other parent works at a job where they are exposed to the general public and has a high risk of infection.
  • Maybe there is a history of abuse by a parent or household member. 
  • Maybe there are long travel distances between parents.
  • Maybe a parent is planning travel that is risky under the situation.
The possibilities are endless. As in all family law cases, each situation requires a unique solution. Under normal conditions, we would simply file an emergency motion and get it into court quickly for the judge to decide a dispute. That is not so easy right now.

TO BE CLEAR: the court houses remain OPEN! - particularly for emergency situations like Orders of Protection. However, most courts are operating at a limited capacity. In Will County, the judges are handling only serious emergencies. A good attorney should be able to help you determine if there is a true emergency.

Cook County has issued an administrative order last week on this issue which you can find here. It states that "the parties regular parenting time schedule shall control in all instances" and that visitation shall continue regardless of school closures or the COVID pandemic. It also has some cautionary language about not exposing children through "unnecessary travel".

DuPage County has issued administrative orders as well so if you have a case, you may want to read through those orders to see what they are doings

So what else can you do? Generally, you should keep in contact with the other parent about these issues and DOCUMENT your communications. If the other parent is being unreasonable, try to get them to explain why they are doing what they are doing in texts, emails or software like "Talking Parents" or "Our Family Wizard". Try to work out the differences and in the end, if all else fails, call an attorney to discuss. Each courthouse is different and while I cited the Cook County Order above, I am not a Cook County Attorney. I can refer you to some good ones but my backyard is Will County so I am more familiar with those judges and courthouse.

Under the existing parenting time statute, a parent can only seek to restrict another parent's visitation if the court has a hearing and finds that it is more likely than not that the child is seriously endangered by the other parent's actions.

Its a hard thing to tell a client...that they have to follow the court orders signed by the judge. There are emergency situations and I have in VERY limited situations counseled a client that they need to put protections over compliance and not follow a court order. BUT that is unusually the only obvious reasonable option. So if you think you can not follow a court order, you should definitely talk with a knowledgeable family law attorney before you act.

If you are seeking a consultation, Anthony Andreano can be reached at (815) 954-8175.

Keywords: Corona Virus, Coronavirus, COVID-19, China Virus (not my words), Pandemic, Epidemic, Visitation, Parenting Time, Restrictions, Governor's Order, Travel Ban, Stay in Place order, shelter in place, Will County, Cook County, DuPage County, Divorce, Parenting Plan, Joint Parenting

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