Of the many casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, one often-overlooked is that of children in joint-custody agreements and their parents who are forced to navigate them. With stay at home orders, social distancing guidelines, and the vast differences in which people view the Covid-19 pandemic, many divorced parents are left wondering how their possession schedule should look in this new environment.
Differing Parent Perspectives and the Corona Outbreak
Managing parenting time with an ex is a sensitive subject for many and the coronavirus pandemic complicates it even more. Parents have different views on how their families should approach the pandemic. For some, this means adhering to their custody order, while others believe that parenting time should take a backseat to stay safe.
What if one of the divorced parents works in a high-exposure environment, such as the medical field? Given the ongoing number of coronavirus cases, it is possible that this parent could be exposed to the virus and transmit it, even unknowingly. This could potentially put the divorced couple’s children or the other parent at risk.
Even if no one involved in the child custody situation is around Covid patients, parents could have opposing views on the pandemic. One parent may not be as strict about social distancing, wearing masks or be lenient on their child’s activities, allowing their child to spend time with friends, go out to restaurants or engage in other high-risk activities that were perfectly normal before Covid-19. While the other parent may adhere strictly to shelter in place orders and take the risk of the virus much more seriously. If the two parents have very opposite perspectives on how to handle the situation, which parent is allowed to determine how to handle it for their child?
To complicate matters, even more, there is the issue of education. Should parents send their children back to school or opt for virtual schooling? Or do they feel it’s better to simply homeschool their children while school districts continue to sort through this “new normal”? One parent may believe that their child is at low risk for Covid and that their social needs should be considered. At the same time, another parent may fear the risk of infection if the child returns to school.
The Court System and Family Law Issues During Covid-19
In an ideal world parents would work out their differences in the child custody corona situation on their own, but when that fails turning to the legal system is the best option. The legal precedents of child custody during a pandemic vary between states.
In Texas, the Texas Supreme Court sent out an emergency ruling stating that parents must follow any existing court-ordered possession schedules during the shutdown. The Court also noted that any stay-at-home orders by local counties or cities could not override the existing court-ordered possession schedules. For many parents in Texas, this news was a relief, while others were not so happy. Either way, the Texas Supreme Court has provided family law guidelines for Texas residents to follow.
However, the child custody Covid situation in other states is much more difficult for parents and attorneys to make sense out of. Massachusetts, for example, has been as vague as to say that “parents should cooperate.” But what if they can’t agree on the percent of the time (if any) that their children should spend with the other parent?
What Recourse Do Parents Have Right Now?
Parents have many difficult decisions to make regarding the health, safety, and emotional well-being of their children. For divorced parents, these decisions are even more complicated. When parents have differing opinions on what is best for their children, it is best to reach out to an attorney for help before attempting to make changes to your custody agreement on your own.
A family law attorney can help you understand the current laws and rulings in your state and how they may have changed (if at all) in light of the coronavirus pandemic. If you try to abandon the current agreement, or you have a former spouse who is doing so, it could make matters worse for you in the long run. It is better to have the law on your side when approaching this situation.
Additionally, your attorney may have options and ideas that you and your ex could agree upon. For example, some families are using Zoom calls or Facetime for visitation. If you and your ex still cannot agree on a child custody Covid plan, then you may need to take your dispute to court.
Working with a lawyer can also provide a buffer between divorced parents. While it is ideal that parents work together to decide what is in the best interest of their child, this is often difficult, especially in high conflict situations. But even if a relationship is amicable, having professional help to guide and facilitate an agreement could be best for you and your child.
Contact Attorney Jennifer Espronceda Today
Espronceda Law, PLLC, handles a variety of family law cases, including divorce, child support, and child support modifications. At Espronceda Law, we focus on your needs to provide the most effective legal solutions. We are committed to ensuring that the people of San Antonio have fair and honest legal representation, and with our diverse background in a multitude of practice areas, we can guide you through the thicket of legal issues in a manner specifically tailored to your needs and goals.
Jennifer Espronceda, founder of Espronceda Law, was born and raised in San Antonio, TX, and is fully licensed by the Texas Supreme Court. She originally received her undergraduate degree with honors from Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi and her law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Now, Jennifer is teaching the next generation of legal minds at the Institute for Law and Public Affairs at the University of Texas in San Antonio (UTSA).
If you are in need of legal representation, don’t hesitate to contact us today.