Devine Millimet | NH Law Firm

Stay-at-Home Orders and Parenting Schedules

William F. Gramer, Esq.

April 3, 2020

With stay-at-home orders or guidelines being issued in many states including both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, divorced parents are facing the decision of whether to continue following parenting schedules and transitioning children back and forth between two households, exposing them to a greater number of individuals who may unknowingly carry the COVID-19 coronavirus. This problem can be exacerbated where the relationship between ex-spouses is strained, communication is poor, and there exists a lack of trust that the other parent will abide by the stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines or has recently traveled or been around others at high risk thereby further increasing the risk to the children. A parent who is denied time with his or her children may think there is no recourse with the courts being closed to the public. It has quickly become clear, however, that the courts are expecting divorced parents to abide by parenting orders, and the courts have remained open for emergency matters.  In Massachusetts, Chief Justice John D. Casey of the Probate and Family Court issued an open letter stating that parenting orders are not stayed during this crisis, and where one parent is required to self-quarantine, both parents should cooperate to allow contact by telephone or video. Judge Casey’s letter also contains links to guidelines by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, to help divorced parents with co-parenting issues during this crisis. At least one Judge in New Hampshire has ruled that exchanging children is essential travel and that the COVID-19 pandemic is not an excuse to deny parenting time. It appears that absent some exigent circumstances, divorced parents are expected to abide by the parenting schedule and to ensure that their children continue to have quality time with both parents. If you need assistance with developing a plan to get through this crisis, including possibly seeking emergency court intervention in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, contact our team of Family Law attorneys.

For Judge Casey’s full open letter and related links, click below:

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