COVID-19 and Parenting Plans

           The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused uncertainty in every facet of our lives.  Many have questioned the effect COVID-19 has on parenting plans and whether parenting plans still need to be followed in light of the pandemic. 

           Parents throughout the State have filed emergency motions to suspend another parent’s parenting time based on Governor Sununu’s stay-at-home orders, all of which appear to have been denied by Family Courts.  It is believed that none of these requests actually involved a situation where a party had COVID-19.

           According to Circuit Court Administrative Judge David King, “COVID-19 is not a basis in itself to modify a parenting plan,” King said. “As inconvenient as the parenting plan may be during this time, parents still must comply.”

           Circuit Court Judge Susan Carbon recently told the Concord Monitor that a recurring theme in recent filings is one parent alleging that the other doesn’t have proper protections in place to reduce exposure to coronavirus and, therefore, is not being mindful of the child’s safety.  However, Carbon said it’s simply not enough for a parent to say, “I don’t want Susie to go to dad’s house because I don’t think he is taking this seriously.” Carbon went on to say that the parent must illustrate through concrete examples what the other parent is doing and how that puts the child at immediate risk.

           The Concord Monitor further reported that thus far no Court has taken up the issue of whether an actual positive COVID-19 diagnosis of one parent is grounds for a temporary emergency suspension of parenting time for that parent.

           In light of this uncertainty, parents are encouraged to work together to ensure that the best interests of their children are met.  Unless a parent’s actions are directly putting a child in harm, parents should expect to be told by New Hampshire courts that their parenting plans are to be followed during the pandemic. 

           If you would like guidance on parenting issues and your parenting plan during this pandemic, please contact one of our attorneys at Soule, Leslie, Kidder, Sayward, and Loughman for a consultation.

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