Child Custody and Visitation in the Unchartered Territories of COVID-19

Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen, P.C.
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Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen, P.C.

With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, Des Moines, Iowa schools are currently closed through April 13. As of the date of this blog, it is unknown whether state-wide school closures will be extended indefinitely for the school year. If school never returns to session, does that mean summer visitation starts early? What about a visitation order that permits parents to have a Sunday overnight if there is no school the next day? Does that mean that every weekend now extends through Monday?

Fortunately, on March 28, 2020, the Iowa Supreme Court issued guidance on this matter for custody orders. In its Order, the Iowa Supreme Court states, “Custody, care or visitation of a child shall follow a schedule as if school is in session and shall not be impacted or modified by the school closure.” Further, “A school closure caused by the COVID-19 virus does not amount to an extension of spring break or the beginning of summer break.” What this means is that parents’ visitation and custody schedules should continue, uninterrupted.

For example, if a non-custodial parent gets every other week during the summer, this summer parenting time does not start earlier, because of the COVID-19-related school closures. Instead, the summer schedule would start on the date when summer break would have started notwithstanding the COVID-19-related closures.

Similarly, a non-custodial parent would not be entitled to additional parenting time by virtue of the school closures, although parents are always encouraged to be flexible in offering additional parenting time.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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