Northwestern Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Family Project: Pandemic can’t overrule custody agreement

Friday, April 17, 2020 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Q. My ex-husband and I have a court-ordered visitation schedule, and he wants to continue with that visitation order during the coronavirus pandemic. The children are with me. I have not been sending them to their father’s home. Their father is not in agreement with me, What are some ways to handle this situation?

Panelist Mike Daniels took the lead in dealing with this question, including checking with the courts.

“There are two separate issues here,” Daniels said. “The first is mom deciding to keep her children at her home despite the court order, and second, the safety of the child and family given the current pandemic.”

Referring to both issues, he said that custody orders are to be followed using best judgments to reduce spread and risk, and all decisions should be made by both parents together.

“Parents in custody disputes need to know that while the court recognizes the risks in co-parenting during this pandemic, it will not tolerate using this situation to make unilateral parenting decisions,” Daniels continued.

Panelist Joanne Raftas was also critical of the mother: “My first point, is about the fact that she made a decision on her own and then expected dad to follow her lead without a problem. That is not co-parenting.”

“Do we know if the father is staying at home and is not working”? panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo asked.

“If that is the case, then I believe it is safe to share custody time with the kids as long as everyone involved takes all the needed precautions,” Mercado-Arroyo said, adding, “The kids would feel safe and happier if they can see and spend time with both parents.”

“If the children ordinarily spend a portion of their week with their father, it is critical that this continue,” panelist Denise Continenza said, adding, “I recommend that the parents talk and come to agreement on what is allowable activity for the children, that both commit to following the recommended guidelines from the CDC [The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”

This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor, Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator; Joanne Raftas, Psychotherapist, and Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist.

Have a question? Email: projectchild@projectchildlv.org

The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

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