Part of the price we pay for living in such a beautiful and wonderful area as the Lowcountry is the threat of periodic hurricanes. Scars left by Hugo—both physical and emotional—still can be seen throughout, even after so many years.
A meme I saw yesterday stated that “waiting on a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle.” If there is a blessing to this type of natural disaster as opposed to others, it is in the capacity for preparation. That said, watching storms like this one loom ominously in the Atlantic can be stressful. Bumper-to-bumper news coverage, with its colorful maps and colorful meteorologists and endless sensationalism, only augments that stress. Especially for children.
If you are separated, divorced, or otherwise share custody with your children’s parents, storms like this one can wreak havoc on a visitation schedule. So, how should two parents handle the upcoming bad weather? Without providing any specific legal advice via social media, I am happy to offer the following:
Most of our former clients have “Catastrophic Events” provisions built into their custody agreements, setting forth guidelines for parents as to how to handle evacuations and everything else that comes with a looming storm. If your decree has such a provision or something similar, consult that document and coordinate with your parenting counterpart. Some of our former clients, as well as current clients not yet at the final stage of their case, do not have such provisions in place. That’s okay, too.
Regardless of whether your controlling documents contain such a provision, keep in mind that the safety of your children is paramount, and that both you and your parenting counterpart are motivated to and capable of keeping your children safe. If your parenting counterpart were *truly incapable* of keeping your children safe, they would likely not be afforded unsupervised visitation in the first place. So, if there ever was a time to trust one another and work together to keep your children as safe from the storm and as insulated from the inevitable stresses associated therewith, it is now.
Disagreements will happen. If y’all got along all the time, you wouldn’t have custodial documents to look at, right? However, when it comes to co-parenting “emergencies” or disagreements regarding physical custody or parental decision-making during an evacuation, please understand that the Court will likely prioritize safety ahead of drama or to-the-letter adherence to Court Orders. So long as your spouse or parenting counterpart does not tie your child to the nearest palm tree with “WELCOME HOME, [INSERT HURRICANE NAME HERE]!!” scrawled across their bare chest in bright red lipstick, I’d expect that the average Family Court Judge will be exceptionally understanding when it comes to deviations from agreements and Court Orders – especially after a state of emergency or mandatory evacuation order has been issued. (Please know, though, that I could never anticipate what a particular Judge might think or do, and I could never advocate for the willful violation of a Court Order.)
Now is NOT the time to score points for litigation.
Parenting time and visitation, if missed, can easily be made up.
Personal belongings are replaceable. Children are not.
Stay calm. Stay safe. Stay civil. Help strangers and neighbors alike. Show your children how they should act in an emergency. Be an example for them – show them how well you treat their mother or father in times like this. Do whatever you can to lessen the stresses of this situation on them.
In the meantime, if you need to find me once the wind kicks up and the power goes out, I’ll be the one standing shirtless on my back patio while drinking tequila from the bottle and grilling soup.