The novel coronavirus outbreak has resulted in severe disruptions to normal life almost everywhere across the globe. Individuals and families find themselves in entirely different, and sometimes novel, situations that require creative solutions.
The outbreak will be particularly hard on divorced parents with child custody obligations. Due to the increasingly stricter measures being adopted by the federal and state governments, carrying out co-parenting responsibilities may be a very difficult proposition during this period.
How custodial obligations are being disrupted
Custodial obligations in the US are being disrupted in several ways including the following:
- Legal disruptions: One of the most pressing legal issues facing couples is whether current custody orders are still in effect. In some jurisdictions, courts have ruled that parents should follow custodial orders in place before the shutdown. In some others, courts have adopted a hands-off approach. Contact a competent family law attorney for appropriate legal advice on what obtains in your jurisdiction.
- Social distancing: Social distancing measures have also introduced the compulsory physical distance to limit the spread of the virus. As a result, divorced couples cannot co-parent effectively due to the need to protect each other and their children from possible infection.
- Logistical disruption: Travel restrictions and “shelter in place” order have also disrupted the routine of co-parents. Commuting has become difficult or impossible for parents who live in different places. Child swapping in common places for custody exchanges like restaurants and community centers is now impossible.
How can you navigate the disruptions?
Working out a solution may be especially difficult when it involves a messy divorce. However, it is still possible to work around these disruptions and ensure you are not in violation of your custodial agreements. Here are some measures you can take.
Modifying Custodial agreements: Previous agreements may be reviewed to vary the time to be spent by the child with either of the parents. This can also be employed where a co-parent that tests positive is willing to accede custodial rights to the other. Once modified, the agreement should be put into writing and notarized, to ensure that proof will be available should the need arise. It is also useful to include that the variations will take effect temporarily until supervening circumstances have ended. A family law attorney can help you modify your agreement.
Mediation: In times like this when courts are closed to non-essential matters it may be very difficult to make applications relating to custody. Mediation can be an option that enables divorced parents to modify their obligations during this period.
Technology: Video conferencing technology can help break down the barrier of lockdown measures and social distancing. It would be especially useful for co-parents who have tested positive or those restricted by distance. You should exercise caution when using technology though, as anything said or recorded may be produced as evidence in court.
An experienced family law attorney can help