COVID-19 impacted our lives in an unprecedented way. As a result, our health, society, economy, and family lives have become uncertain, and many people are left worrying about the future. This is especially true if you’re going through a divorce or are struggling to understand how this affects your custody arrangements.
Many courts closed or limited their services due to stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. This brought about questions and concerns about the safety and welfare of children and existing or pending custody agreements. A few questions that arose as a result are:
- Do shelter-in-place orders change the schedule of custody exchanges?
- If school is no longer in session, who has the child(ren)?
- If my ex works in a hospital, should the children stay with me?
- What happens if my ex has family members in the high-risk category?
- What happens if my ex is placed in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure or if they have COVID-19?
So, how has the pandemic affected family law in the era of COVID-19? Let’s take a look at how it’s changed and where it will go in the future.
If you’re paying child support, you must continue paying, even during the pandemic. COVID-19 has caused fear and uncertainty due to business losses and economic downturns. However, if you’re struggling to pay child support because you lost your job or your wages decreased due to fewer hours worked, you must file a modification of child support.
If a modification is not filed and approved by the court, it causes issues for both parents. The paying parent who lost income is still responsible for paying the current child support amounts, and the recipient also experiences a loss and change in circumstances. In addition, when the paying parent does not pay the full support, there may be future legal issues for non-payment. If you’re struggling to make payments or you aren’t receiving them, it’s critical to contact an experienced family lawyer for help.
In addition to child support issues, concerns about custody agreements have arisen due to the pandemic. Some of these issues are:
- Parents living in different states and not wanting the child(ren) to travel
- Parents unable to pick child(ren) up from school or other agreed-upon locations
- One parent not following social distance and quarantine guidelines
- Difficulty making child care arrangements while child(ren) are home while the parents work
- A parent testing positive for COVID-19 and not wanting their child exposed
These types of problems are still widespread in the United States, despite vaccination rates increasing. Your best option is always to work with a skilled family law attorney to get answers to your questions and come up with a resolution that is best for your child(ren).
The federal government provided stimulus relief packages that included checks to many adults to compensate for some income loss due to COVID-19. A child credit was also allocated in this package. One of the most common questions regarding the stimulus package is which parent is entitled to get the credit for the child — some divorced parents alternate claiming the child as a dependent on their tax returns. The stimulus check is based on federal tax returns. This creates a debate about who receives the child tax credit.
If you’re recently divorced and a new tax filing has not yet been completed, you may have concerns that one parent receives more than their share of the stimulus check. Suppose you’re concerned about the distribution of stimulus payments and the child tax credits. In that case, a family law attorney can help you navigate this issue and reach an amenable agreement with your ex.
Emergency Custody Orders
You may have concerns that sending your child(ren) to your ex’s home could pose a risk to your child(ren)’s health. If this happens, you can ask your ex to agree to a temporary change of custody. When you do so, propose alternatives such as:
- A temporary pause of in-person visits and scheduling make-up visits at a later date.
- Scheduling regular phone calls or virtual visitation using FaceTime or Zoom
- Keep in touch by sending letters, cards, text messages, or emails
If you feel your child(ren)’s health truly is at risk, you may need to ask a judge to intervene. It may be possible to get an emergency temporary child custody order from the court. However, custody disputes in the time of COVID-19 are uncharted territory.
There’s no guide on how to handle these issues in the courts. Some family law courts have stated that families should continue following custody schedules, and the schedule won’t be modified except in extreme cases.
If you and your ex can’t agree on a modified visitation schedule or you feel your child(ren)’s health is at risk, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Speak With A Family Law Attorney
At Hann Law Firm, we take a personal approach to everything we do. From our first consultation, we’ll listen to your needs and concerns. Listening to our clients is at the heart of our success in the courtroom. So when you work with us, we’ll address your specific challenges, prepare diligently for the best possible outcome, and create a personalized approach to help achieve your goals.
This kind of care takes more time. But the results of our personalized approach speak for themselves. While other firms see a case number and a bottom line, we view each client as a human being who deserves justice. We know your case is essential to you, and we’ll take it just as personally. You – and your case – matter to us. Contact us today for your free consultation.