What if your child gets ill before your parenting time begins?

One of the hardest parts of a divorce is not spending as much time as you'd like with your kids. You look forward to every weekend and school break, trying to make each moment count. Unfortunately, life sometimes has other plans.

Picture this: you're getting ready to pick up your child from your former spouse when you receive a call that the child has become ill and isn't sure that they should leave. You understand that your child may not feel comfortable, but you also want to receive all the time with your child that your custody agreement promises.

How to face potentially missing parenting time

The good news is that California considers caring for a sick child the obligation of both parents, according to the California Courts' website's child custody FAQ. This prevents one parent from having to do an uneven amount of caretaking, while one parent gets more happier moments. It also prevents one parent from preventing the other parent from caring for their child.

What you should do is collaborate with your co-parent to decide what's best for your child. Here are a few ideas:

  • Plan for illness as much as possible. You may not know when your child will develop a cold or the flu, but you can prepare for it. Negotiating "illness contingencies" into your custody agreement is a great way to avoid conflict or confusion when illness does occur. These contingencies allow you to make up for missed time. When your child becomes sick and interferes with your parenting time, everyone will already know what happens next.
  • Consider your child's feelings. If your child is too uncomfortable to travel, it may make them feel worse travelling. However, some experts feel that a change of scenery may help them begin to feel better. Maybe your child doesn't have final say, but it's important to give them a voice in the conversation.

You can't predict illness, but you can prepare for it

It never feels like you have enough time with your child and that's understandable. Illness is one of those things that no parent can control but what you can control is how well you prepare for instances of illness. This way you nor your co-parent feel left out of their parenting duties. Having a way to make up sick days in your custody agreement is a smart idea for every family.

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