The COVID-19 pandemic turned everyone’s life upside down, particularly families with minor children. If you and your ex have a court-ordered parenting plan, you have likely found the last two years to be challenging. Even the most amicable of divorces can get strained to the breaking point when schools shut down suddenly, parents lose their jobs, and family members have health crises.
A North Carolina family law attorney can provide legal guidance for the best options in your situation and answer your questions about dealing with changes to custody and visitation arrangements caused by COVID-19.
Primary COVID-19 Custody, Visitation, & Child Support Changes
Every situation is different, and you should always do what makes sense in your unique circumstances. Here are some of the key issues to keep in mind:
- The best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining. In other words, talk with your ex now and make arrangements for sudden changes in custody and visitation arrangements when they are still hypotheticals. It is easier to think clearly when you are not in a crisis. Have your Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D already discussed and agreed to (if possible) before the school shuts down again, one of you gets laid off, or someone in your home tests positive for COVID.
- If you and your ex have a high-conflict relationship, you might want to talk to a lawyer about the best strategies for your situation. Some people have had to go to court and get a judge to order a modification in their custody, visitation, or support terms because of drastic changes in their circumstances.
- Speaking of modifying the terms of the divorce decree, you might be eligible for a recalculation of the child support payments if the pandemic has caused significant changes in the parenting time or one of the parents got laid off. The amount of child support is based on the income of each parent and the proportion of time the child spends with each parent. When there are substantial changes, the amount of child support might no longer be fair or appropriate.
- Work-life has changed throughout America and the world. Children who spent their days at school during the school year have had to stay home for months on end. Child care during those hours is not an issue that many pre-pandemic parenting plans address. If one parent covers the lion’s share of that responsibility, both the schedule and support obligation need to be revisited.
- Few families have escaped having at least one person diagnosed with COVID, even asymptomatic positive COVID test results, during the past two years. Parents should set up a protocol for how to keep the children safe when one of the households has someone diagnosed with COVID. Video conference calls can provide some connection between parents and children when face-to-face visits are not advisable or possible. Both parents should be flexible about the frequency of these and other remote contacts.
- The parents need to have an understanding about where the child will stay when anyone in one of the two households has tested positive. When the child or someone in one of the households is medically vulnerable, they need to be protected from harm.
You might have additional compelling issues that need to be addressed during this pandemic and in the future.
Getting Legal Help Now and for the Future
A North Carolina family law attorney can talk to you about your current situation and help you devise a plan for future upheavals. Going forward, it would be wise to have a backup plan already in writing for these issues. Get in touch with our office today for a consultation.