Should We Include “Pandemic Clauses?”
None of us have ever experienced anything quite like the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time, some of us have been suddenly thrust into the dual role of being a full-time employee and a full-time stay-at-home parent simultaneously. Some of us are getting into disputes about whether it is best to keep a child in one home to minimize the child’s potential exposure to the virus, instead of following the regular visitation schedule. And some of us are quickly and cooperatively coming up with new plans that address our children’s needs. But none of us had a plan for this before it happened.
For example: in the physical custody provisions of our orders and agreements, should we include clauses that determine what will happen if the State of Maryland issues a “stay at home” order? Should the parent who has the child for more overnights during the year keep the child with him or her until the stay at home order is lifted? Or should the clause specify that even if a stay at home order is issued, the regular schedule will be followed unless the government expressly directs us not to leave our homes at all? Should the provision say that the regular schedule will be followed unless the parties create a plan for make-up-time before the time is missed? Would the parents’ professions, the parents’ failure to follow government directives, or the presence of other people in the parents’ homes be a factor?
And in our legal custody provisions, should we include clauses specifying which parent will have the right to determine whether or not the child is allowed to leave the home, go to certain locations, or do certain activities? While these decisions normally fall within the decision-making power of the parent who has physical custody, they may be major decisions that affect the child’s health, education, and welfare during a pandemic.
Hopefully, this situation is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. But—just in case it is not—we should learn what we can learn from it now and adjust our behavior accordingly. If we ever face a second pandemic, we should have to look no further for answers than our existing orders, agreements, and parenting plans.
If you have questions about divorce during this unprecedented time, please email Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our main number 410-842-1070. For the foreseeable future, we will be available by telephone and virtually to serve our clients.
If you are in a domestic abuse situation and need help, please call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522. Domestic abuse is a serious matter and can be heightened during times like now, where we are encouraging social distancing and quarantine. Our attorneys will continue to handle domestic violence cases throughout this time. Courts are still open to handle these important proceedings.