Amid the coronavirus virus confusion, many things have hit a dead end. Child custody is one of the many issues that have emerged as a significant concern for separated parents. While some parents are finding it quite easy to co-parent during the stay-at-home period, many others are struggling, especially those with pending court cases. As courts throughout the country close, some of the emerging issues include how to handle unsettled and arising custody matters. Things can get problematic when parents are stressed about the safety and health of their children, particularly if there is friction in the custody process.
Significant Disruption Experienced
During the COVID-19 outbreak, almost all co-parents and children need to adapt to the new normal. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers introduced guidelines at the beginning of the stay-at-home order. These guidelines encourage co-parents to follow the local and state custody orders, implement high-level communication skills with the other parent, follow court orders, embrace virtual services, be honest, and figure out how to make up for the missed time. While these recommendations do not solve custody problems, they can help kick-start a discussion.
Parents are urged to remain calm during this period and treat custody exchanges as crucial. However, these custody agreements vary from one state to another. For instance, in Ohio, the social distancing order includes the travel required by the court order to transport children to the set destination. Other states say that transportation for the support of children is vital. Ultimately, parents are expected to treat private custody exchanges like court custody orders, although laws courts still provide guidelines regarding private orders. So far, there is no clear way to handle the situation surrounding custody matters.
The Need for an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer
During the COVID-19 outbreak, parents need a professional child custody lawyer to help them plan visitations that consider the coronavirus restrictions. While most lawyers do not know what to expect during the closure of courts, an experienced lawyer understands how to consider the ever-changing restrictions and include them in a child’s custody order. For instance, if the other parent is not able to appropriately take care of the child during the stay-at-home, a lawyer can help file for a change of custody of your child.
Delaware courts offered an emergency declaration to encourage parents to keep following the custody orders. Similarly, the President Judge, Court of Common Pleas, of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, issued a directive saying that the custody agreements, pursuant to court orders, must continue in consideration of the child’s safety. During this time, parents are encouraged to remain calm and reasonable as courts strive to find realistic solutions. So far, there is no single parent with a pandemic clause in their custody exchanges.
The Child as the First Priority
The separating parties are still parents to their children and should remember that their children need love and care now more than ever. As they work on the physical custody process, parents should consider other crucial factors of the co-parenting relationship. They might need to adapt to new schedules that will enable them to support and spend time with their children. For instance, they can use Zoom or Skype to chat with their children and even participate in remote schooling to facilitate good relationships.
Parents need to maintain their roles in ensuring children are safe and healthy. Some courts have issued specific orders that remind parents to assess their situation and figure out if the current custody order can work during the coronavirus outbreak. Depending on their situation, parents can change their schedules or negotiate the order terms. Whichever option they choose, parents are expected to observe child support and visitation orders and should be willing to continue co-parenting to improve the child-parent relationship. However, if one of the parents disobeys or ignores court order, the other parent needs to request for court order review or modification of the child custody order.