How does the school shutdown affect my court ordered custody and visitation schedule?

On August 1, 2020, the Orange County Superior Court issued guidance to parents on how to handle your child’s custody and visitation schedule now that schools have been formally closed.

The court specifically stated in its ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 003:

Definition of Spring Break, Summer Break/Vacation or Holidays: While the schools are closed, parenting time shall continue as if the children are still attending school in accordance with the school calendar of the relevant district. “Spring Break”, “Summer Break/Vacation” or other designated holidays, means the regularly calendared breaks/vacations or holidays in the school district where the children are attending school. The closure of the school for public health purposes will not be considered an extension of any break/vacation/holiday period or weekend.

Denial of Parenting Time: COVID-19 is not a reason to deny parenting time. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, parents are considered fit to care for their children and make decisions regarding the day-to-day aspects of parenting while the children are in their care. This day-to-day care includes following all Health Authority and County Public Health directives regarding social distancing and sanitation-related measures (such as frequent handwashing).

Simply put, you follow your existing court orders. If your child’s school is regularly scheduled to be closed for Spring Break, and the other parent is to have the child from Monday to Wednesday, for example, then that is exactly what should happen. Act like schools are still in session and exchange your children accordingly. If it’s a school holiday, then follow the appropriate holiday exchange schedule.

As the court has made it clear, parents are to do everything in their power to maintain the court ordered custody schedule and to keep the children’s schedule as consistent as possible. To the extent that a parent does not follow the schedule, and the other parent asks the court to hold them accountable, we would expect that the court may dish out some harsh punishments.

The easy part is that all you have to do is keep doing exactly what you have done in the past. Follow the court order. Nothing changes, that is, as long as everyone remains healthy.

If you’re having problems with your custodial exchange or if you have any other family law needs, we can help. We’ve been solving family law problems for more than 20 years.

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