The advice being communicated across the country is to #StayHome. Social distancing and staying home are at the heart of the battle to save lives among the COVID-19 pandemic because these measures aid in the reduction of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients. In some situations, a parenting time schedule must be restructured to support these measures and also to limit the risk of household to household exposure that could result from transferring the child between each parent’s respective home.

Keep children at the center of co-parenting
Let’s face it — most co-parenting families do not have a disaster schedule in place to face the challenges of a COVID-19 pandemic. Deviating from parenting time schedules to accommodate special occasions and the like can be challenging enough when co-parenting. A global health crisis only complicates matters, especially when each parent is under significant stress as it is – whether due to heightened safety concerns, losing employment, or working from home while homeschooling children. However, regardless of the situation, the best interest of the child must remain at the forefront of each decision when co-parenting. When it comes to COVID-19, this responsibility may become even more difficult as it is foreseeable that each parent has their own concerns about the child’s health exposure during this pandemic and may want to also be afforded the opportunity to spend this rare time in quarantine with their child.

Prepare for the unknown
With the possibility of COVID-19 cases soon declining in the U.S. and possibly rebounding shortly thereafter, a prepared disaster schedule between both parents that anticipates change and reduces conflict is essential. Improper child custody schedules can have a significant effect on your mental well being, your child’s exposure to COVID-19, and your family’s quality of life. Therefore, certain considerations must be made to plan for the unknown and ensure the safety of yourself and your family. For example, if one parent’s job puts them at a higher risk of developing COVID-19, it may be best for the child to plan to stay elsewhere. If a parent catches COVID-19 while hosting the child, there should be steps taken to remove the child and place the child into quarantine to observe them for symptoms.

Consider your options
A possible disaster schedule can be to alternate who the child stays with for the duration of each pandemic when it occurs. This schedule could be best for separated parents who live long-distances apart so that the parents and child will not need to travel often.

Another possible kind of schedule includes splitting the time in quarantine in half between parents. This approach necessitates preparation, open communication, and frequent compromise. If both parents are not capable of healthy communication, this approach may not be attainable.

Lastly, for one reason or another, if shared parenting time is not attainable, the custodial parent can encourage the children to have frequent FaceTime contact with the noncustodial parent throughout the day. There are ways to normalize the time spent by still sharing a meal together or engaging in a family game night, even if forced to take place virtually.

Consult an expert
These times are unprecedented and the reality is that many families do not have a disaster schedule in place to face the challenges of COVID-19. When considering emergency custody schedules, it may be advantageous to consult a lawyer to make sure that your interests, as well as your children’s, are protected. An experienced child custody attorney could help you develop an emergency disaster schedule that meets your family’s concerns.


This article contains general information and opinions from Sheena Burke Williams and is not intended to be a source of legal advice for any purpose. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information included in this article without seeking legal advice of counsel. Sheena Burke Williams expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any content in this article.


  • Sheena Burke Williams, Esq.

    Family Lawyer

    Burke Williams, LLC: Attorneys At Law

    Sheena Burke Williams, Esq. is a New Jersey family lawyer handling divorce, child support, alimony, and child custody litigation. She owns and operates her divorce and family law practice, Burke Williams, LLC: Attorneys At Law, located in Westwood, Bergen County, New Jersey, and Bradley Beach, Monmouth County, New Jersey, which are both dedicated to providing high-quality and personal legal representation for individuals in all family law matters.