Notice regarding COVID-19 and parenting time orders
March 30, 2020
To: Attorneys and Parents subject to parenting time court orders
From: Lorain County Domestic Relations/Juvenile Court Judges Glass, Janik, and Swenski
Order Declaring Judicial Emergency – click link to read
During this time of social distancing and limiting face-to-face interactions, the Lorain County Domestic Relations/Juvenile Court nevertheless recognizes the importance of parenting and companionship time and strongly encourages parents to ensure that children have frequent communication with parents, grandparents and other relatives, through whatever means are appropriate, including telephonically and electronically. For parents, the Court is providing the following guidance regarding parenting time, shared parenting plans, and custody orders.
The Governor’s stay-at-home order does not prevent parenting time exchanges; in fact, the order allows and encourages parent/child contact. Parents who are subject to parenting time orders should continue to follow them to the best of their abilities and in the spirit intended by the Court; these orders remain in effect. While parties may agree to an additional or alternate schedule based on their children’s best interests, in the absence of such an agreement, the court order controls. Parties should adhere to all holiday and spring break schedules as designated by their schools at the beginning of the school year regardless of recent changes. Ohio schools were closed for an “extended spring break.” In an effort to de-escalate any situations or confusion that may arise regarding this public health mandate, the Court does not view this “extended spring break” as automatically extending the spring break period set forth in parenting time orders, unless otherwise specified in court orders. Parents should follow their regular parenting time schedules unless their orders specifically address school closures.
Parents should communicate about the location, health, and welfare of their children and should discuss travel plans and arrangements as required by their parenting plans or custody orders. Many parents have found co-parenting apps like Our Family Wizard to be helpful when communicating with the other parent may otherwise be difficult: www.ourfamilywizard.com
While not endorsing any particular author or publication, the following article provides some good general guidance as well: https://theconversation.com/co-parenting-in-the-coronavirus-pandemic-a-family-law-scholars-advice-134093
Lorain County Domestic Relations/Juvenile Court limits face-to-face Court interactions amid COVID-19 concerns
The Lorain County Domestic Relations/Juvenile Court has closely monitored the reports of national and local health officials and Governor Mike DeWine regarding the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). In particular, Governor DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health have established guidelines and measures to combat the spread of this virus. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice O’Connor and the Ohio Judicial Conference have also issued guidance to local courts to devise a plan to continue operations “to meet both our purpose and essential functions.” The Chief Justice stressed that “closing the courthouse and disrupting services is not a plan.” In line with the orders of Governor DeWine, health experts, and the Ohio Supreme Court’s guidance, the Court will take all necessary measures to keep the public, attorneys, and our staff safe.
In keeping with the goal of limiting interactions among people, an important method to combat the spread of COVID-19, the Lorain County Domestic Relations Court will limit face-to-face Court business to mission-critical essential functions only, effective March 17 through April 6, 2020, to be re-evaluated at that time. Essential functions generally include, but are not limited to:
- ex-parte Petitions for Domestic Violence Civil Protection Orders (DVCPO) and reviews
- ex-parte Petitions for Juvenile Civil Protection Orders (CPO) and reviews
- ex-parte Motions for Emergency Temporary Custody (ETC) and reviews
- adjudicatory/dispositional hearings in Abuse/Neglect/Dependency (A/N/D) matters when video or telephonic alternatives are not available
- shelter care hearings for A/N/D as well as juvenile detention matters
- final hearings for Petitions for Dissolution
- judicial bypass of consent hearings
- any hearing for juveniles in detention
- supervising juveniles in detention, Turning Point Shelter, or Pathways Group Home.
The Court will evaluate all other types of hearings or meetings for participation through video or telephonic means. The Court will be notifying those who have hearings scheduled during this time frame regarding the status of those hearings.
The Juvenile Clerk’s office will remain open to accept essential filings and payments. The Juvenile Clerk’s office accepts fax filings at (440)329-5271 and payments online; visit the Court website at www.loraincounty.com/domesticrelations The Domestic Relations Clerk’s office accepts fax filings at (440)329-5506 and payments online; visit the Clerk of Court’s website at www.loraincounty.us/clerk/
The Court will utilize its lawful authority, within constitutional limits, to do all things necessary to ensure the orderly and efficient administration of justice for the duration of the declared public health emergency. All court orders remain in effect.
The Lorain County Domestic Relations Court remains open for business. The Court will continue its functioning with a focus on the safety of the parties, attorneys, staff, and judges.
Lorain County Domestic Relations Court will serve the Citizens of Lorain County in a professional, dignified, and timely fashion.
The Court will protect the public interest, make cost-effective use of public funds, engage appropriate community resources in providing services, and endeavor to provide for the safety of the public.
The Court will strive to ensure that parties receive a just determination in every Court proceeding and enforcement of their constitutional and legal rights.
Foremost, the Court will provide for the care, protection, and well being of the children and families who come before it.