Co-parenting isn’t always easy; especially at the beginning of a divorce. But add COVID into the mix, and co-parenting just got even more challenging. Since the pandemic began, I have seen parents make countless mistakes surrounding co-parenting and COVID; mistakes that have cost them in court.
COVID-19 has forced parents to make major medical decisions for their child without so much as a roadmap, such as when to quarantine, when to get tested, and whether or not to get vaccinated. If parents have different views on COVID, including the vaccine, wearing masks, social distancing, testing, traveling, and school restrictions, co-parenting can get ugly. While the Courts have provided parents with some degree of leeway when it comes to co-parenting and COVID, there are a few critical errors you could make that your ex could use against you.
Here are three co-parenting and COVID tips:
1. You Must Immediately Notify Your Ex if you or child are exposed to COVID or begin showing symptoms.
In fact, you must immediately notify your ex in writing. If you try to conceal your symptoms, your child’s symptoms or a positive COVID test, your ex will almost always find out, and can then claim in court that you have seriously endangered your child’s wellbeing due to your intentional concealment.
When a court is ruling on the issues of child custody, significant decision making, and parenting time, one of the main factors the court considers is your ability to co-parent with your ex. A good co-parent always keeps the other parent promptly informed of any serious symptoms or illness a child is experiencing.
Do not be scared of your ex trying to use the fact that you or your child got sick against you! Many parents and children have gotten sick during the pandemic and this does not mean you are an unfit parent.
2. Discuss a Plan of Action for your Child
If you or your child is exposed to, shows symptoms of, or tests positive for COVID-19 or any variant, you must discuss a plan of action for your child with the other parent. If you conceal information or decide on a course of treatment unilaterally, without discussing the options with the other parent, then you are not co-parenting and your ex can use that against you.
When a court is deciding on awarding significant decision-making responsibilities between parents, including medical decision-making, a court will look to whether you communicate about significant decisions with the other parent and whether you make decisions together.
The law states, “In determining the child’s best interests for purposes of allocating significant decision-making responsibilities, the court shall consider the following… (4) the ability of the parents to cooperate to make decisions, or the level of conflict between the parties that may affect their ability to share decision-making.” 750 ILCS 5/602/5.
While the law does not require you to reach an agreement with your ex, you must communicate with the other parent regarding the best course of action in addressing your child’s medical needs. Remember to always communicate in writing and to keep your communications respectful, as these communications can always be used in court.
3. How to Handle Disagreements on Medical Care
If you and your ex do not agree on the best course of action for your child, you cannot make the decision on your own and keep the other parent in the dark. The court will typically advise parents to follow the CDC Guidelines and to follow the child’s Pediatrician’s recommendation. If you schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor, you must provide the other parent with the opportunity to also be present at the appointment.
4. What to do if you disagree about getting your children vaccinated
As it remains a conflict all over the US, the decision to get vaccinated and to get your children vaccinated might be a conflict between you and your former spouse. A court usually does not order a parent to vaccinate their child, but can under some circumstances. The best way to approach vaccines is to do your best to reach an agreement with the other parent on the decision. If you vaccinate your child against the other parent’s wishes, they can use your unilateral decision against you in court.
5. When to call your attorney
If your ex is concealing medical information regarding your child, such as being exposed to someone with COVID, showing symptoms, or testing positive, or if your ex is making unilateral decisions regarding your child’s medical care without you, then your attorney should address this behavior immediately with the court.
The law states, “After a hearing, if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent engaged in any conduct that seriously endangered the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or that significantly impaired the child’s emotional development, the court shall enter orders as necessary to protect the child.” 750 ILCS 5/603.10.
The Court will consider the safety of other household members or extended family members as well. You can seek sole decision making, or seek to have the other parent’s decision-making responsibilities to be reduced or eliminated, if the other parent refuses to communicate with you and makes unilateral decisions without you.
Need More Information or Representation?
Do you need help navigating co-parenting with a difficult ex in the state of Illinois or Florida? If you are going through a divorce or custody proceeding and need more information regarding your rights or obligations in court, give The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes a call today at 773-893-0228 for a free phone consultation. Our entire practice is solely dedicated to the area of family law. We are highly experienced and help parents obtain the custody judgment that is best for their child.
Tiffany M. Hughes is a divorce attorney and Managing Partner of The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes. Awarded as a Top 100 in Lawyers Magazine in 2018 and 2019, Hughes represents individuals in all aspects of family and matrimonial law proceedings, including litigation, mediation, allocation of parental responsibility (formerly known as custody), parentage, divorce and other child-related matters.
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