Any Charleston SC divorce lawyer will tell you that there is an extraordinary amount of stress and uncertainty that comes along with co-parenting and complying with court orders during any type of natural disaster, particularly when evacuations are ordered and each parent would have time with the children during the evacuation days.
During hurricane season, parents often inquire as to what their rights are with regards to their ability to evacuate with the children. While these questions are never easy to answer, there a few things you can do to ensure your safety, your child’s safety, and your compliance with the court order.
I cannot stress enough how easy it often is to address these issues by simply communicating with the other parent. I recommend sending an email outlining your plans, your recommendations and your concerns. This is not only an opportunity to work this out amicably, but in the event that a conflict arises in the future about how the situation was handled, being able to show a court that you attempted to cooperate will only help your situation. Even in high conflict cases, most parents will at least agree that keeping the children safe is the priority.
2. READ YOUR ODER
Are you allowed to travel out of town with the children? What type of notice do you have to provide to the other party for the same? Will your custodial time start before or during an evacuation period? Who will technically have the children at the time to evacuate? Obviously, these things can vary from order to order, but being certain you carefully answer these questions will help guide you in the best way to handle the same.
3. CONSIDER THE STATE MANDATES
A court is unlikely to excuse your disregard of a court order with respect to visitation solely because it is convenient for you. If you choose to evacuate prior to an order to do so, you should do so in compliance with the time-sharing set out in your court order, or with agreement of the other parent.
4. OFFER MAKE-UP TIME
If you are the primary custodian, it is likely that you will be the parent evacuating with the children. If you are going to need to be away during a day that the other parent would have the children, offer for them to make up the time at their convenience. Should you ever need to explain your position to a Judge, this will go a long way.
5. TALK TO AN ATTORNEY IN ADVANCE
There is very little that can be done to address any of these situations once a natural disaster is imminent. The backlog of Emergency Filings in the courthouse during this time is astonishing so do not rely on getting a last minute court order. If you are in the process of family court litigation now, discuss including emergency provisions with your attorney so that you are better prepared to handle these situations in the future, before they come up.