In the times of COVID, what happens when one parent is committed to social distancing, remaining in a bubble and limiting all contact but for essential transactions (e.g. grocery delivery), and the other is not willing to do so, or simply cannot for a number of reasons (eg their profession)?
Consider the following example:
Parent A is able to stay at home during the pandemic, relying on limited-to-non interaction outside of their nuclear family. Groceries and other essentials get delivered, children are educated via remote learning platforms, and the risk for COVID transmission remains fairly limited. In the inverse, Parent B is a medical professional, retailer, day care operator, teacher or restauranteur whose very calling brings with it substantial potential exposure and risk. When two worlds collide, where are the courts coming down as to what’s in the best interests of the children. What happens if one of those children, or even one of the parents, is at high-risk of mortality should they contract COVID?
Early on in the pandemic, the State of Florida was placed under a microscope after a judge issued a ruling that essentially stripped a mother (an emergency room doctor) of custody of her daughter as a result of the inherent risk factors associated with her employment.
In New Hampshire, the Courts have been reluctant to disturb parenting plans and remove children from the care of a parent, even where one parent is interacting with the public. What does this mean for parenting plans where one parent is concerned about exposure?
Most parenting plans under the statutory form encourage mediation as a way of resolving disputes prior to involving the Courts. Use of an experienced mediator can often bridge the gap between two parties at odds and a solution that often lies in the middle. One of the advantages of mediation is that parties can agree upon safeguards that are acceptable to them in order to limit exposure and prevent transmission. Not every mediation is successful, but with mediators available by telephone and ZOOM, it often makes sense to lean into a neutral third party to assist in crafting creative solutions acceptable to both parents.