Aug 17, 2020 - Child Custody by Seastrom Tuttle & Murphy
Navigating a global pandemic is hard enough without the added stress of childcare, but that’s precisely the situation families all over the country find themselves in as they aim to get through the COVID-19 crisis unscathed. Between worrying about contagion, navigating school and daycare closures, and trying to maintain a work-life balance, parents are feeling stretched thinner than ever before. For divorced parents who are co-parenting, this stress is experienced tenfold. Old arrangements regarding childcare and custody may be thrown off balance depending on each parent’s lifestyle and emergency needs. Many California parents are finding themselves having to revisit their arrangements to keep their families safe and sane.
Needless to say, this moment is incredibly tense for co-parenting couples, but there are a variety of measures and steps one can take to make the situation a little more bearable. You certainly can speak with our skilled Irvine child custody attorney at any time, as we are still working and available to assist you. Below, we answer the most frequently asked questions around co-parenting during COVID-19.
I share custody with my former spouse, and they have a very different approach to social distancing than I do. I am worried my children have a greater risk of exposure because of it. What should I do?
Getting on the same page with your former partner is likely a tall order since that is probably the reason why you divorced in the first place! However, you may want to try having a heart-to-heart so you can talk through your fears and come to an agreement that works for you both. Perhaps you can suggest that your co-parent see the child every two weeks instead of every week and that they refrain from having close contact with others at least a week before their next meeting. Or, perhaps, you might require your partner to wear masks around the kids. The most important thing to realize is that talking through your issues about your current custody arrangement is the only way to resolve any lingering fears you may have regarding your child’s safety. That said, be sure to keep a level head about it.
What if my co-parent or child tests positive for COVID-19? How should I handle our custody arrangement and visitation schedule?
Today, we have a somewhat more accurate panoramic view of the dangers of COVID-19 and the threat they can pose to children and families. Person-to-person contact remains one of the surest ways to catch COVID-19, so if your goal is to reduce the spread among your family, then you’re going to have to make some difficult choices. Even if those infected show only mild symptoms, it’s recommended that you take strides to slow the spread among your family. As such, we recommend you follow the CDC guidelines and immediately institute a 14-day quarantine for anyone who has been exposed to the virus.
If your child has tested positive, for example, and your co-parent is insisting on adhering to your regular visitation schedule, explain that the medically sound approach is to remain quarantined until the threat of contagion has subsided. Ask your co-parent to maintain constant contact in the meantime, so you can share information about doctor’s appointments and recovery so that the quarantine can be terminated as quickly and safely as possible.
While this certainly isn’t an ideal situation, it’s necessary to ensure that you, your children, and any vulnerable family members are protected from contracting COVID-19. As parents, we are often faced with making short-term decisions to ensure a beneficial long-term impact, not just for our immediate families but also for our extended ones. Remember that the coronavirus affects different people differently, so taking the utmost precaution is the best way to guarantee everyone remains healthy throughout the pandemic.
What if I suspect that someone in my co-parent’s household is sick? Can I ask them to quarantine?
While it’s understandable that you might be nervous about the pandemic, it’s important not to overreact and maintain the integrity of your co-parenting relationship. If you have trusted your co-parent to make rational decisions in the past, why would it be different now? Don’t you think they would be honest and forthcoming with you if they were going to be around someone who had been infected by COVID-19? That said, if they share information that someone at home might be sick, ask them whether they plan to get tested and if it’s okay for you to refrain contact until they either a) get a negative result, or b) isolate themselves from the person at home who is sick. If they’ve been exposed to someone at work who later tested positive, you might suggest they follow the same measures.
If you’re concerned about your child’s risk of exposure – such as if they saw their co-parent before you knew they had been exposed – then you and your child both may want to get tested to ensure you aren’t unknowingly spreading the virus.
How should I deal with unexpected school or daycare closures while aiming to maintain my child custody and visitation agreement?
While you may be tempted to want to hold each other accountable to the letter of the child custody agreement, these are unprecedented times, and they call for extraordinary measures. It might be in you and your family’s best interest to relax a bit in terms of the arrangement that works, to arrive at one that makes sense for right now. Remember that your child is the person who will suffer the most from school or daycare cancelations, and they need their parents to be there for them – without any unnecessary bickering. Try to figure out what would work best for both you and your co-parent based on your work schedules and susceptibility of family members, and attempt to develop a new plan that works for you both.
I was forced to quit my job because my child’s school remains closed and I am the primary caretaker. Can my Irvine child custody attorney petition the court for additional child support?
Due to these extreme circumstances, the answer is likely yes. However, whether you actually should or need to revisit your current custody arrangement depends primarily on whether you can take advantage of relief packages designed to put more money into primary caregivers’ pockets in place of access to school and daycare. Be sure to file for unemployment as you determine whether you wish to also file for a child support modification. However, bear in mind that California’s court system isn’t business as usual – at the moment, the court remains closed to any non-essential hearings. As such, you may wish to delay preparing court filings while you’re also trying to navigate being out of work or under-employed. Consider talking to your co-parent about working out a temporary relief situation if you simply can’t make ends meet. Still, if you find that you are unable to get adequate relief through other means during this time, our Irvine child custody attorney is certainly here to help you in this regard as we continue to socially distance ourselves. Contact us today to discuss your next steps.