Visitation, Exchanges, and Withholding Parenting Time Issues due to COVID-19
Is your child’s other parent withholding your child from you due to the novel coronavirus? The pandemic is not an acceptable reason to alter a parenting time agreement and your visitation and exchange schedule with your child should not be altered without the agreement of both parties.
If you, your child, or your child’s other parent or other family members have been exposed to COVID-19, your family will need to communicate expectations and testing results in order to ensure the safety of everyone. Having a high risk family member or working in an industry that increases risk of exposure to one parent is not reason alone to withhold visitation.
Document all parenting time that is withheld from you. You can do this simply by making notes on a calendar or in a journal. If the situation doesn’t improve and you need to reach out to an attorney or mediator, a clear picture of what has already happened will be very helpful.
School and Remote Learning Problems due to Coronavirus
When schools closed and classes moved online in the springtime, students and parents didn’t have as much to decide or disagree about because there were no other options but remote learning. With schools reopening this fall, many districts are offering in-person schooling, fully remote online classes, and hybrid options that combine the two. School start, end, and holiday dates have changed drastically. Start and end times have been adjusted. Your child may need or be responsible for technology that needs to move back and forth to each home during visitation exchanges. Your child’s supervision and childcare needs (and expenses) may have changed. All of these changes create the opportunity for conflict when parents do not agree.
Your parenting plan likely addresses the decision-making authority over your child’s school choices, but your parenting plan never envisioned COVID-19 custody issues. You are weighing two very serious issues – your child’s education and your child’s health. This is an unprecedented situation that will create conflicts in your family that no parenting plan could have ever anticipated.
Other Parent Doesn’t Take COVID-19 Seriously Enough
Mask requirements, quarantine measures, and protection from exposure are very personal decisions. When children live in two different homes as the result of a shared parenting schedule, your exposure to the novel coronavirus is dependent on decisions made in the other parents’ home. This can become a very divisive topic very quickly if you aren’t on the same page or have a high-conflict situation.
You may need to talk to an attorney if you feel that your child’s health is in danger because of poor decision-making by your co-parent. If you do not have access to your child’s medical records, are unsure of their exposure or testing history, or are concerned that the other side is not being honest with you about your child’s safety or medical status, an attorney can help you decide the next steps to protect yourself and your family.
Child Support Problems Due to COVID-19
One of the most traumatic effects of the coronavirus pandemic is the record-setting levels of unemployment. If you or your child’s other parent has lost a job or had prolonged changes to their work schedule or salary, your child support or shared expenses may need to be changed.
With stimulus checks and tax situations arising from COVID-19, co-parents are also finding themselves in unfamiliar financial arguments over who gets to claim the children.
If your financial situation has changed substantially, you may want to review your current child support situation with your attorney. It’s important that you address your issues in a timely fashion, as your ability to collect (or responsibility to pay) child support is often measured from the date that you file requesting a change. It’s important to remember that losing a job does not automatically suspend your responsibility to pay support. Similarly, agreeing to suspend child support is usually not binding and may result in back child support being owed and collected in the future. Consult an attorney to make sure that you don’t have an expensive surprise in the future.
Do I need a lawyer for COVID-19 custody problems?
Your conflicts with your child’s other parent may be resolvable through improved communication or through mediation without necessitating lawyers or court involvement. However, if you feel that you’ve made your best efforts to coparent and cooperate and your situation is at a stand-off, an attorney can help you brainstorm ideas for how to move forward and protect yourself and your family.
The first step in retaining our office is a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. After going over the details of your matter, a Pro Legal Care LLC attorney will help you come up with a plan to move forward. They will also cover all of our flexible payment options with you, including payment plans. People rarely expect legal expenses, so we have options for you to budget and set realistic goals that won’t break the bank.
Call us today at (815) 200-8802 or reach out to us online with your information.