What can you do to stop a former spouse from traveling to high-risk places with your children?
At the time of this writing, Florida, the nation and the world are struggling to understand COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), a previously unknown illness that recently originated in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new virus a pandemic because of its rapid worldwide spread.
Protecting the kids
So, what if you are a Florida parent understandably concerned about your child’s safety? Imagine how you might feel if your former husband or wife says they want to take your child abroad or on a cruise, or even to a stateside event that will attract large numbers of people.
First, what does your divorce decree say? Are there restrictions on taking the kids on trips, out of state or out of the country? Must you give permission? If the other parent is threatening to ignore safety provisions, you could go to court to enforce it – it is a court order that both spouses must obey.
Beefing up protections in the parenting plan
If the settlement or judge-crafted divorce provisions are silent or inadequate to prevent this trip or event, you may be able to negotiate with your ex revisions to the parenting plan that would incorporate more safeguards. The new plan would need court approval.
If negotiation is not an option or if it fails, you could go back to court to request a modification of the parenting plan. Florida law allows modifications to custody and parenting time provisions if there is a “significant change in circumstances” – which, arguably the new virus presents.
If the judge finds that potential exposure to COVID-19 is a significant change of circumstance concerning the children’s welfare, the court will look at whether the children’s best interests support modification to the parenting plan. For example, it could add specific provisions that restrict travel or attendance at large events, or it could require your permission to travel.
We wish our clients and our community safety and peace of mind during this challenging time. Please wash your hands frequently, keep informed about latest advice and talk to your doctor with questions.