While the measures currently in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) are impacting nearly every aspect of our lives, divorced or separated parents are facing additional challenges regarding parenting plans and child custody arrangements. Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” executive order is still in effect until May 4, and schools will remain closed through the spring and summer months. Now, divorced parents must assess whether their current parenting plans are still feasible given the various effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s take a look at what family law experts are saying about how to navigate child custody matters in the time of COVID-19.
Parent Communication is Essential
Children who travel between two households may raise several concerns between parents. For instance, if one parent lives alone and has taken strict measures to limit exposure to the virus, they may be anxious about their child spending time at their other parent’s home, where there may be step-siblings or other increased risk factors. Even if you and your child’s other parent are not used to communicating with each other often, now is the time to make sure that you’re on the same page about your house rules and your commitment to reducing your exposure to the virus.
Making Temporary Changes to the Parenting Plan
While the language in a parenting plan varies from situation to situation, most plans allow divorced parents to temporarily change the terms without violating the agreement. For instance, if your ex may have been exposed to the virus, you can both agree to temporarily suspend visits to the exposed parent during this time. In lieu of in-person visits, think of ways to keep your child connected to the quarantined parent—Facetime calls, writing letters, or scheduling extra make-up time when the pandemic has passed. You may also need to be considerate of how this separation will impact the other parent. Are there ways you can check in with the other parent more often and provide brief updates on your child? During this overwhelming time, reassurance and comfort are deeply appreciated.
When Disputes Arise
In some instances, you and your child’s other parent may simply not be able to see eye-to-eye. Perhaps the other parent is refusing to grant you the visitation rights put forth in the current parenting plan, and you want to take legal action. In Washington state, courts are temporarily closed, so it may be exceptionally difficult to resolve your matter in an efficient manner. Instead, get in touch with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can help you understand your options. While many attorneys have also closed their doors, most are available over the phone or via video conferencing. Talking through your situation and your concerns with an experienced attorney can help you feel reassured and empowered during this uncertain time.
If you have questions or concerns about a child custody or other family law matter, Henderson Taylor Law Firm is here to offer you thoughtful and effective legal counsel. Call our Vancouver office today at (360) 737-1478 to discuss your situation and to receive the support you need during this unprecedented time.