How to Create a Fair Timesharing Agreement in Sarasota, Bradenton, and Venice, FL During COVID-19

mother and daughter waitingTimesharing with children is one the most important components of a divorce settlement agreement. Just because the marriage is over does not mean the work within the family stops, including during these difficult times with COVID-19 impacting every aspect of life. New emergency stay-in-place orders could become a valid factor to be considered when it comes to child timesharing. But as it stands currently there are certain very serious factors that must exist before scheduled timesharing visits can be interrupted. Basically, from what we have heard and what we’ve experienced, the Sarasota, Bradenton, and Venice family law court system is not going to suspend timesharing due to someone in your ex-spouses household coming down with coronavirus.  Nor are the Judges and Magistrates in the 12th Judicial Circuit which encompasses Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Venice, Northport, Arcadia, Sarasota County, Manatee County, and DeSoto County, FL going to prohibit travel of the minor child or minor children to another state.  This is true even if it is a coronavirus “hot zone” with more cases than Florida– such as Texas or California.  Sarasota divorce attorneys like Attorney Matthew Z. Martell at the Law Offices of Matthew Z. Martell, P.A. recommends consideration of these particular elements of the true serious medical emergency before even thinking about altering timesharing schedules due to coronavirus.

Each Situation is Unique

The dynamic of each family timesharing schedule will depend on the individuals and their particular exposure and vulnerability status. Children with medical problems could be more vulnerable than others and need special protection. One contemporary possible alternative option is using social media apps to communicate as opposed to actual physical visitation for a two-week period after a person in your ex-spouse’s household is confirmed to have coronavirus.

Family exposure to coronavirus by others is an issue as well. However, just because you kid went somewhere where a person at that location was later found to have coronavirus is not grounds to unilaterally suspend timesharing with the other parent.  If you do so, then you should expect yourself to be held in contempt of court eventually by a Judge or Magistrate during a Motion for Contempt hearing in your case.  If a member of the family has tested positive or had a manifested case of the highly contagious virus, the certain precautions should be taken to protect your minor child or children. While self-isolation and containment in one room can be relatively effective in one household, children interchanging between two households can heighten chance of exposure. So, keeping close tabs on all family members with respect to exposure, testing, wearing masks, washing hands frequently, taking extra vitamin C & Z, taking extra zinc, etc. is important in such situations. Also, communicating with your ex-spouse and coming to an agreement on a safety plan to limit your children’s coronavirus exposure is also important.  In the big scheme of things, if physical timesharing needs to be suspended for 2 weeks to keep your kids from getting coronavirus, it is probably worth it and the right thing to do.

Timesharing Schedules Are Currently Still in Effect

While some parents may want to unilaterally use emergency measures immediately as a reason to restrict timesharing when they discover that someone in their ex-spouse’s household has coronavirus, this is not a good decision. The Florida court system will only accept certain very good reasons for denial of timesharing, and ex-spouses who want to contest a denial could well be successful if they take the issue to court. Certain conditions that would be underlying factors could include:

1. Your ex has been exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19
2. You ex is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19
3. Your ex has a high-risk job and is frequently exposed to COVID-19
4. Your child is high-risk for COVID-19.

However, keep in mind that based upon our experience with the local family courts in Sarasota, Bradenton, and Venice, what we are basically hearing is that the Judges and Magistrates are NOT going to suspend timesharing due to the above-referenced factors.  The best that you can probably do is get some safeguards put into place after as confirmed case of coronavirus that your spouse and/or his or her significant other has contracted.  Those safeguards would basically be that self-quarantining would be encouraged which the disease is contagious.  As a practical matter, you would most likely not even be able to schedule a hearing on this issue until well after the two-week contagion period has passed.  Therefore, as we recommended above, it is best to be reasonable, practical, and try to work something out with your ex-spouse on your own that keeps the health and best interests of your minor children in mind at both of your top priority.

Call us if you need help with your timesharing due to COVID-19

Remember first that it is always best to work this issue out personally within the family in an amiable fashion. However, if you cannot, then please contact Sarasota divorce attorney Matthew Z. Martell at the Law Offices of Matthew Z. Martell at (941) 556-7020 for more information regarding trying to change your timesharing temporarily due to COVID-19 emergency conditions.  We are here to help you!

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The Law Offices of Matthew Z. Martell located in Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota Florida provides legal services to the following areas: Sarasota, Osprey, Siesta Key, Bird Key, Lido Key, Longboat Key, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach, Palmetto, Ellenton, Parrish, Venice, South Venice, Manasota Key, Englewood, Casey Key, Nokomis and all areas of Sarasota County and Manatee County. Let us help you today.

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