How Will COVID-19 Affect Holidays for Divorced Families?
If you are divorced with children or currently separated with children, you likely drafted a marital settlement agreement. That agreement, or MSA, governs child custody, education, healthcare, tax deductions, as well as which parent spends time with the child on which holiday. Some parents choose to alternate holidays like Thanksgiving every other year, or even and odd years. Other parents might “give up” one holiday to reserve another. For example, one parent might always have the child on the Fourth of July, while the other prefers Easter. Either way, it is important to adhere to the provisions in the Marital Settlement Agreement or Parenting Plan.
But what happens in the middle of the pandemic? Are families still getting together for Thanksgiving celebrations, and donning a face mask? What if one parent is not comfortable with their child being around extended family, but it is the other parent’s year to host Thanksgiving? What if one parent was confirmed to have had COVID-19, and now claims they are feeling better? What will Thanksgiving and Christmas look like this year for divorced parents with children? If you are faced with a similar dilemma, it’s important you call an attorney to review your options and assure your wishes are adhered to and respected.
Family Courts Process for Reviewing MSA’s and Parenting Plans
The good news is that while schools are operating virtually, and some businesses remain closed, the Florida courts are open. In Palm Beach County, family courts are holding virtual hearings as well as teleconferences to mediate party disputes. The Courts are open for in-person services, but a face covering is required. If the parents cannot reach an agreement about holidays and vacation custody, and no provisions were explicitly written in the marital settlement agreement, a family Judge would decide on the matter, using the best interest of the child standard. The Courts encourage open communication and collaboration between parents when making decisions about their children, including how the children will spend holiday time.
Given the ever-changing nature of COVID-19, safety is paramount for the children, parents, and extended family. While many of us desire to be together for the holidays, it’s critical to use caution and consider the pros and cons of visiting family in person versus virtually through an online platform like Zoom and FaceTime. For the parent who does not have custody on Christmas, Hanukkah or Thanksgiving, using a teleconferencing platform like Zoom gives the parent an opportunity to see and speak to the child, even if they are not together in person.
Call Attorney William Wallshein Today
Now more than ever it is essential that children experience some sense of normalcy when everything else has changed. It is important that divorced parents act cooperatively and keep the lines of communication open when making holiday 2020 plans and adhering to COVID-19 protocols. If you are faced with obstinance or difficulty from your ex-spouse regarding your child’s holiday plans and visitation schedule, call West Palm Beach family attorney William Wallshein today for a consultation and review of your potential options.