Governor Kate Brown has issued new restrictions on gatherings and travel that are to last on an as-needed basis. The most extreme restrictions are anticipated to last in Multnomah County until at least the new year. While these measures are valuable in slowing the spread of COVID-19, they have left some confusion about parenting time. Here is an explanation of what we know, what we do not know, and what we are still trying to learn.

Please note, this article only describes the legal effect of the Order, and is intended to be information instead of advice. We are not medical providers, and we cannot give any advice or information about the pandemic. Please review the Oregon Health Authority’s website for medical information.

What Are The New Restrictions?

The new measures offer a system of categorizing the level of COVID-19 spread that each Oregon county faces. These levels are: low, moderate, high, and extreme. Currently, 25 counties (including the entire Metro Area) are categorized as being at ‘extreme risk.’ Each county’s risk level is reevaluated on a weekly basis. 

Do These Rules Discuss Parenting Time?

The rules do not currently address parenting time, visitation, or exchanges. Previously, they were labeled as essential activities that were exempt from restrictions.

What Does the Household Restriction Mean for Parenting Time?

There has been some confusion about the current household limits described in the restrictions. The rules recommend limiting gatherings of members from different households. In extreme risk counties, the limit of households that can gather together is 2. In low risk counties, the limit is 4. However, this limit is described as ‘recommended.’ This means that, unlike the other terms of the restriction, this is not mandatory. If you or your family need to gather with members of more than two households, this is not forbidden. 

However, this does still increase the opportunity for CIVD-19 to spread within your bubble. Also, please be aware that while the household restriction is recommended, the restriction on the number of people who may gather together is not. This number varies from six to ten people based on risk level.  

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Also be aware that this analysis only applies at the state-wide level. Individual counties may impose additional limits, or enforce the statewide recommendations as mandatory. 

Can I Work With My Co Parent to Reschedule Parenting Time?

Yes. If you or your co parent has a high risk of infection, are currently infected, or you conduct exchanges in a high-risk area, you can and should consider whether there are alternatives to your regularly scheduled parenting time. Common alternatives include frequent phone and video contact, writing letters, and providing makeup parenting time. Some parenting plans cover methods of rescheduling parenting time due to illness, so you should check your parenting plan to see if there are already protocols in place. 

If you are infected with COVID-19, you should strongly consider holding off on seeing your child in person until you have recovered and your quarantine period has passed. Although this is a difficult decision to have to make, it is not worth the pain and fear that infecting your child may bring. 

What if My Sick Co Parent Insists on Seeing Our Child In-Person?

You cannot violate a court-ordered parenting plan. If you believe that your child is in danger, you could attempt to obtain a temporary Immediate Danger Order. However, you cannot withhold court-ordered parenting time unless you have explicit permission from a Judge. Work with your child to practice proper handwashing, wearing a mask, and social distancing.  You can also limit your interactions with those outside of your household for a while. 

What Does the Travel Advisory Mean for My Long-Distance Co Parenting Relationship?

If you and your co parent live in different states,  the guidelines recommend that people travel out of the state only for essential purposes, such as for school, medical care, and business. The advisory does not categorize parenting time as either essential or non-essential.  

This advisory is recommended but not mandatory. That means that there would not be any penalty for engaging in travel for parenting time. However, it is important to remember that these recommendations exist for a reason. Long distance travel has the potential to increase the risk of exposure. If you or your co parent have been exposed, are at high-risk, or live with someone who is higher risk, you may want to find another way to celebrate the holiday with your child. 

About the author 

Elise Hampton

Elise Hampton is a staff attorney at The Commons Law Center focused on Family Law, Asset Preservation, and Small Business Law.

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