Snow Days, Sick Days and Kids -- Oh My!

It’s that time of year when kids practice their favorite snow day superstitions from flushing ice cubes down the toilet to turning their pajamas inside out and sleeping with spoons under their pillows. It’s also that time of year where flu, cold and COVID germs are being passed around from student to student. The snow days and sick days can begin to pile up and, for working parents, it could mean their PTO is being used up as quickly as their children are flushing ice cubes down the toilet in their inverted pajamas.

For working parents negotiating a custody and parenting time plan in a divorce, it can be important not to overlook what happens in the event of a sick day or school closures because of inclement weather.  Who misses work when a child is sick, or school is closed?

Typically, the regular parenting time plan still applies. The parent who is scheduled to exercise regular parenting time is usually responsible for taking time off or working from home to care for the children.

However, co-parents can – and often should – discuss whether this is the best plan for their family when negotiating custody and parenting time. An amicable co-parent may be reasonable in helping to care for their child on a sick day if the other co-parent has an important meeting that can’t be missed. However, there are other times when co-parents are less willing to work together, and the burden will fall on one party substantially more than the other without any flexibility. In those cases, it may be necessary to negotiate how sick days or school closures will be handled. Sometimes, parents agree to alternate responsibility and, if one party fails to care for a child during that time, they are responsible for work-related childcare.

As with most issues during a divorce, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Co-parents should consider their regular parenting time schedule, their job flexibility, job stability, and if they have other family members or close friends who may be willing to help care for the children if they are sick or there is a school closure. Some parenting agreements or court orders may include a “right of first refusal” or an obligation to consult about childcare providers. Those rules apply equally to snow days and sick days. 

Contact an experienced family law attorney at Cohn Lifland today if you are going through a separation and need to negotiate the right parenting time plan for you and your family.