COVID-19 has drastically altered all aspects of life for New Jersey residents in a short time, and it is leading to many unusual scenarios divorced couples are not sure how to navigate. Steven B. Menack has Online Divorce Mediation services available to help couples come to a decision about these issues and more during this difficult situation.
One area of concern is how social distancing and stay-at home orders will affect child custody and parenting time arrangements for divorced parents. Here are some answers to common questions about child custody during the Coronavirus.
Will Stay at Home Orders Change Our NJ Child Custody or Parenting Time Plan?
From a legal standpoint, existing child custody and parenting time plans are still in effect during the ongoing Coronavirus situation, and the recent stay at home and social distancing rules do not change them. This means that failing to follow the court’s orders, such as denying parenting time, without the consent of both parents can still lead to legal trouble despite the change in circumstances. If one parent tests positive for COVID-19 and needs to be hospitalized or self-quarantined, visits will likely need to be postponed. In all other cases, both parents will need to agree to a new system for any change to take place.
Should My Spouse and I Change Our Plan During COVID-19?
While the law has not yet enforced any change in court orders regarding child custody, in practice maintaining the same parenting time plan can be difficult for some families with people working from home, and children being temporarily home schooled. There is also the issue of health and safety. While children seem to be less susceptible to the Coronavirus, children with underlying medical issues are at risk, and even healthy children will risk spreading the disease to their parents or other family members. Ultimately, it is up to the couple to decide if they should temporarily alter their plans in the best interest in the child, if they are able to mutually agree on the new arrangement.
What Changes Can We Make To Our Custody Schedule?
There are several ways parents can alter their parenting time schedules to meet their needs during COVID-19, including:
- Switching to a ‘week on/week off’ schedule to minimize exchanges.
- Switching to a ‘weekend/weekday’ schedule to accommodate home schooling.
- Temporarily postponing visits and scheduling them to be made up at a later time.
- Keeping in touch via daily phone calls or using Zoom or FaceTime for virtual visits.
- Agreeing to health and sanitization protocols in both households to prevent the spread of the virus.
It is important that both parents take the time to assess their situation and come to a decision that works best for their child and keeps everyone healthy and safe.
The situation around the Coronavirus is changing day by day and this will be a trial and error process, so it would be a good idea for parents to agree to check in every week and determine whether any other adjustments to the schedule are necessary.
My Spouse and I Can’t Come to an Agreement on Child Custody During Coronavirus. What Should We Do?
If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on whether or how to alter your child custody plan during COVID-19, contact Steven B. Menack for an online divorce mediation session. Mr. Menack is an experienced mediator who can help both parties come to a mutually satisfactory decision on issues including child support and parenting time. Read our Comprehensive Guide to Divorce Mediation and Legal Separation in New Jersey for more information and contact us today for a free telephone consultation.