On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Child Custody and Parenting Plan on Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Winter has arrived in full force and we have seen our first snow days of the season. Surprisingly, we have also had quite a few questions about problems with custody exchanges resulting from these snow days, so we thought we would share our responses with you.
Few Parenting Plans explicitly mention snow days, principally because they fit naturally into the regular school schedule. All Parenting Plans state that one parent at the conclusion of a physical custody period returns the child to school or at a particular time (usually 8:00 a.m.) to the other parent when school is not in session. So, in case of a snow day, if the child would normally have returned to school that day, the child should instead go back to the other parent.
Circumstances may make such an exchange difficult or even dangerous given the weather conditions. In that situation, the parent currently with the child would communicate with the other parent about road conditions and determine when it would be safe to make the exchange. It is important that parents deal honestly with each other in these situations and not use inclement weather as an excuse to extend custody or keep the other parent from exercising his or her regular custodial time.
Snow days often mean that childcare options may be foreclosed for the day as well. If that happens, the parents should communicate with one another and coordinate care for the child. Again, if the weather is treacherous, the child should remain where he or she is. If the weather allows a transfer but one or both parents need to go to work, the parents should discuss how to share custody for that day to best accommodate each other’s needs with regard to work and also to assure the child has sufficient care. We suggest parents have a prearranged plan in these situations – a particular daycare provider in case of such emergencies, or perhaps a relative (like a grandparent) who could watch the child if both parents need to work.
While kids usually love a snow day because they do not have to go to school and may get to play outside and go sledding or build a snowman, for kids operating under a custody order, snow days can become another source of tension or drama. A parent should resist the temptation to use a snow day to infringe on the custodial rights of the other parent. The best interests of the child always require compliance with the Parenting Plan unless it would be dangerous or impossible to do so because of the weather. All parents should understand that if they keep the child in an unreasonable manner, the parent denied custody could file a Family Access Motion for compensatory custodial time, or even a Motion for Contempt. It truly would be simpler for all involved, especially the child, to use common sense and put the child first.
If you have questions about snow days and Parenting Plans, contact us – we can help.