Quick Update 3/24/2020

by Annette Burns on March 24, 2020

A very quick update on Co-Parenting, parenting plans, and exchange of children during the COVID outbreak. The guidelines I’ve posted earlier remain in effect — parenting plans and court orders for child parenting time remain in effect and should be followed. I’ve heard from countless parents saying, in effect, “I don’t know if the other parent has been self-isolating” or “It’s best if my child stays in my house and doesn’t go back and forth” or “My co-parent isn’t practicing safe exclusion procedures as recommended and is letting our child play with other kids.” Rest assured many, many parents are feeling this way, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling. But in all but the most extreme cases, your regular parenting time orders should be followed.

At this point, our best guess as professionals in this business is that violations of the parenting time orders will be harshly dealt with by the courts in the future. It may be awhile before the alleged violations are actually heard by a judge, but when they are heard, a withholding parent will have a difficult time explaining why court orders were violated, and there may be sanctions.

We will have more information as time goes on. The Maricopa County (Arizona) family court has just drastically curtailed its operations effective 3/25/2020, and only emergency and specific matters, including domestic violence/ Order of Protection hearings, are proceeding in person at court. (See below) Other non-emergency matters are either being rescheduled to future dates or might proceed by telephone only for at least the next two weeks (through approximately April 10). Organizations like AFCC, AAML, and OurFamilyWizard are providing resources for families and further information to professionals, and I’ll add new information here as soon as I receive it.

As of today, March 24, the Maricopa County family department policy is:

Effective Wednesday, March 25, and for a period of at least 14 days thereafter, there shall be no in person family court proceedings. All such proceedings shall be conducted telephonically or shall be continued, as determined by the assigned judicial officer.

There are just a few exceptions. Ex parte petitions for Orders of Protection and ex parte emergency temporary orders motions will be conducted in person, likely staged at or through the law library / self service center at each regional facility. Further, hearings on emergency temporary motions and contested order of protection hearings shall be conducted in person. For these few exceptions to the “no in-person” proceedings rule, arrangements are being developed to limit physical exposure to the other participants.

This will be amended and supplemented as time goes on. It’s a learning process for everyone. Please — continue to follow the Plan and be flexible with your co-parent when you can.

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