Coronavirus fears disrupt parenting plan

My ex and I share 50/50 parenting of our two kids. His new wife, Kathy, travels extensively for work and just returned from a two-week trip in Italy. Our son has severe asthma and has had pneumonia several times.

When she returned from Italy, Kathy’s company made everyone on the trip commit to work from home for the rest of the month to self-quarantine. My kids were with me the day she returned and I refused to let them go back to my ex for his parenting time the next day. I tried to be nice but firm. I have offered him make-up time once Kathy is medically cleared. I even offered him extra summer vacation time.

He said I cannot control him or his parenting decisions and filed a complaint for contempt against me after two days of missed time. I think he thought I would give the kids back as soon as I was served. I didn’t. The hearing is next month.

What should I expect?

While I am not sure it is reasonable to withhold the kids from your ex for a full month, I am also not a medical expert. You should discuss the issue with your children’s pediatrician and ask for advice on when it is safe for them to return to dad’s home.

As for the contempt, in order for someone to be found guilty of contempt there needs to be a clear and unequivocal order that you knowingly violated. Given that you have a clear agreement that you ordinarily abide by and that you knowingly violated it, you are technically in contempt of the order.

However, there is a common-sense element to this situation. Given the nature of the illness and the general reaction to exposure, do not second-guess your decision for fear of getting in trouble. You will not go to jail for refusing to turn the kids over to their dad for his parenting time. The judge will likely enter an order giving him make-up time, something you have already offered.

So, to prepare for the hearing, you should get a copy of your son’s medical records showing his history of asthma and pneumonia. You should also print out all of the email and/or text exchanges with your ex in which you offered him make-up time and explained your decision.

And, you should ask the pediatrician for a written opinion about whether your children, your son in particular, should be kept away from Kathy until she is medically cleared.

Chances are, where towns are willing to close schools for multiple days when a child’s parent has the virus, a judge is not going to be too upset with you for making the decision you made. Taking it a step further, your ex may even be taken to task for not suggesting you keep the kids until Kathy is medically cleared and, instead, taking you to court over it.

Author: Wendy Hickey
Date: March 15, 2020
Publication: Boston Herald

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