My Ex Ignores Social Distancing. What Should I Do?

Posted in Best Interest of the Child,Co-Parenting on May 21, 2020

Dividing your time spent with your child after a divorce now has an additional concern: the COVID-19 virus. While sharing custody and visiting your child is problematic enough under various lockdown and shelter-in-place orders, it can be even more distressing to discover your ex is not taking the virus seriously. While you are doing your best to limit your child’s exposure to the coronavirus, your ex might be scheduling playdates and having gatherings as usual. Learn what to do in this scenario to better protect your child.

What Are California’s Social Distancing Rules?

It is normal during this unprecedented time to worry about the health and safety of your child. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that children do not appear to be at a higher risk than adults for serious health complications related to COVID-19, children are still at risk – especially those who are immunocompromised. As a parent worried that your ex is ignoring social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place orders, your priorities align with Governor Gavin Newsom’s response to the virus.

California has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 emergency response. It was the first state to pass strict stay-at-home orders on March 19, 2020. These orders remain in place as of mid-May, directing everyone to stay at home except for essential needs or exercise/activities permitted by the state. These orders include social distancing directives that ask people to stay at least six feet apart from others and wear facemasks when they do go out. California is in Stage 2 of its 4-stage plan, with some lower-risk workplaces reopening with adaptations. It is currently unknown when California will lift the statewide stay-at-home order.

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I’m Worried About My Children Being Exposed to COVID-19

If your ex-spouse appears to be ignoring social distancing guidelines or the state’s stay-at-home orders while you believe it is still unsafe to do so, try resolving the issue one-on-one first. Express your concerns for the safety and health of your child with your ex-spouse. Remind your ex that Gov. Newsom’s stay-at-home order is still in effect, meaning your ex and your child should not leave the house except for essentials. This means no sleepovers, playdates, trips to the park, social gatherings, group events or celebrations. Explain that the courts in California are taking the pandemic and the governor’s mandates very seriously.

Hopefully, your ex will be willing to work with you for the good of your child. If it takes more than a discussion, send your ex a written letter (keep a copy for yourself) asking him or her to comply with the governor’s recommendations. State that you will take the matter to court, if necessary. Next, ask if your ex would allow your child to stay with you until the stay-at-home order lifts. If this does not work and you believe your child is truly in imminent danger, file an emergency motion with a family law attorney. A judge may grant you temporary total custody of your child during COVID-19 lockdowns in an emergency.

Use PPE Gear

A discussion with your ex about your concerns may be enough to express the seriousness of the situation and force your ex to practice social distancing. If your ex continues to ignore the rules and you do not seek court intervention, however, do your best to protect yourself and your child using personal protective equipment (PPE) for virus control while you share custody. Purchase facemasks, gloves, hand sanitizer, gowns, respirators, face shields and other supplies you and your child can use to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. Wash your hands often and continue to practice social distancing in your household until the order lifts. Work with a lawyer in Solana Beach for further assistance with a custody concern.