The calendar year 2020 will surely go down in history as one marked by unforeseen challenges. As December begins, it feels to many as if it is March 231st. Who else expected back in March that the world would be back to normal by now? And yet here we are . . . ready to end this endless year and move on to a (hopefully) brighter 2021.
As anxious as we are to look forward, the COVID-19 virus appears to be sending us backwards. As infection numbers skyrocket, many schools are returning to virtual learning even after spending some time in person over the course of the first semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. This change brings new confusion and challenges for parents who perhaps just adjusted routines as children returned to school. With the notice of a transition to e-learning sometimes being remarkably short, it is important that co-parents discuss if and how e-learning will change routines.
Remember back in March when the Indiana Supreme Court issued some guidance to parents as the country shut down? That guidance is actually still in place and has not been removed or amended. The guidance issued by the Indiana Supreme Court on March 31, 2020 instructed that parents are to follow their court-ordered parenting plans unless they agree otherwise to modify them. So, if you are in a disagreement with your co-parent about how to manage parenting time during the pandemic, look back to what parenting time actually was ordered in your case. You are to follow that schedule until and unless there is agreement to do otherwise with your co-parent (or a new court order). A common misconception is that when school is virtual, parenting time should be treated like it is on a school break. This is not the case. Virtual school is still school and is not a school break. So if your parenting time order specifies that parenting time should be every other weekend and one evening midweek for one parent, that schedule must be maintained.
Another issue approaching on the horizon is the coming availability of a vaccine. For parents with joint legal custody, the decision to vaccinate children is a joint decision. It is unknown at this time whether schools will require the vaccine. The time to discuss with your co-parent whether the two of you are on the same page about obtaining a vaccine for your child is now. If you and your co-parent disagree, you may need to engage the help of the court or a parenting coordinator assigned to your case to break the impasse. Expect that the courts could be crowded with these disputes when the vaccine actually arrives, so get ahead of the game and determine if you need help on this issue now.
As we bid farewell to 2020 and hope that the door slams tightly closed on a difficult year, Wanzer Edwards wishes you health and happiness in the coming year.