Parents shouldn’t have to worry about co-parenting through the Covid-19 Crisis
Yet…here we are.
As Las Vegas Family Law Attorneys, we are being bombarded with calls from parents asking how to handle co-parenting in the time of Covid-19.
If you are currently involved in a child custody case, have a prior custody order or divorce decree that establishes custody, or if you just aren’t sure what legal rights you have when it comes to child custody and Coronavirus, we’ve got the answers.
What You Need to Know About Legal Custody and Covid-19
First, let’s start with a definition of legal custody.
Legal custody is your right as a parent to information about your child. This includes information about your child’s medical needs, school-related matters, and religious training.
In most child custody cases or divorce involving children, parents share joint legal custody.
But in recent weeks, many parents have thrown caution to the wind. They are refusing to abide by the requirement to share joint legal custody.
What does this mean exactly?
Well, let’s break it down.
Covid-19, School and Child Custody
In most jurisdictions, including here in Las Vegas, school has been put on hold or gone to online classes for the time being.
By now, you are probably wondering, “what do I have to do if I have joint legal custody and school is shut down, on-hold or online?“
This is the point where joint legal custody is crucial. It is super important that you and your co-parent communicate about your child’s education.
When special projects are assigned, you and your co-parent must share this information.
Failing to keep your co-parent informed, could result in a motion being filed against you for violating the legal custody requirements of your court orders.
Likewise, if your co-parent is refusing to keep you informed about your child’s education, you have the right to seek enforcement of the legal custody provisions.
Medical Appointments, Legal Custody, and Covid-19
With Coronavirus, the flu, and allergies in full swing, it is super important that you maintain your child’s health.
It is also essential that during these trying times, information about your child’s medical needs, and health is shared freely between co-parents.
If you need to make an appointment with a healthcare provider, notify your co-parent as soon as possible.
Talk to your co-parent about plans in the event your child becomes ill:
- Will both of you take turns caring for your child?
- Will your child stay at only one parent’s house?
- Who will be responsible for scheduling follow-up appointments or appointments with specialists?
Discuss these issues, and more, with your co-parent.
If your co-parent is making medical decisions without notifying you and without your input, they might be violating your custody rights.
Physical Custody, Visitation and Covid-19
Physical custody refers to the amount of time each child spends in the care of one parent or the other.
Do you have an existing physical custody order? What about a temporary custody arrangement? The bottom line is that COVID-19 does not change physical custody arrangements.
Simply, a parent cannot refuse to facilitate an exchange because of current closures or fear of spreading the virus. Instead, take precautions during custodial exchanges and make sure there is little interaction between you and another parent.
Isolated due to coronavirus concerns? Talk to your co-parent, and try to find a way to deal with this change.
What happens when your co-parent does not agree to change the physical custody schedule, but you want changes? It’s good to know you have options.
You have the right to file a motion with your family court judge. Ask to change your physical custody arrangement. But, keep in mind that if you decide to file a motion to change your current custody arrangement, you must have a good faith basis to do so.
Not sure if you have a legit reason to change custody? Talk to a family law attorney for more information.
Interstate Custody Arrangements and Covid-19
As stated, the bottom line is that COVID-19 does not change physical custody arrangements.
If you have an interstate custodial arrangement, you must continue custodial exchanges as you usually would.
For example, if one parent lives in Nevada, and the other parent lives in Texas, and your schedule requires exchanges every two weeks, you must continue the exchanges.
If the receiving parent chooses not to utilize airline travel at this time, then you can choose to drive to pick up your child.
A parent CANNOT refuse to facilitate an exchange only due to travel restrictions.
Remember, if you refuse to facilitate a court order child custody exchange, a judge can find you in contempt of court. This could result in changes to your current custody orders as well as the other parent being awarded make-up time.
Vacations, Travel, and Covid-19
Did you have a vacation planned in the next few weeks?
Rest assured that if you were planning a vacation, you’re not entirely out of luck.
Instead of traveling out of town during your vacation time, you can still choose to utilize your vacation days with your child at home. However, you don’t have to.
You can also choose to reschedule your vacation for later in the year when you can travel again.
You must get any changes to vacations noted in writing, and any agreements about changing vacation days in writing as well.
Be open to the other parent’s requests to change vacation days, because a lot of circumstances are beyond our control. Everyone is having a hard time making plans right now.
Special Days (Birthdays/Holidays) Through the Pandemic
Special days such as birthdays and holidays still take precedence over regular custodial time. COVID-19 has not changed that fact.
If your Parenting Agreement calls for Parent A to have the child on his/her birthday this year, you cancel your plans, Parent A still will get to spend time with the child.
You CANNOT restrict the other party’s time with the child simply because party plans or gatherings cannot move forward.
Custodial Exchanges and Covid-19
If Parent A and Parent B conduct custodial exchanges in a public place, such as a McDonalds, Starbucks, or Grocery Store, you can still conduct exchanges at these locations, even if the sites are currently closed.
If either party feels uncomfortable doing an exchange during the shutdown, then it would be beneficial for everyone involved to temporarily change the location of the exchange.
Keep in mind that grocery stores are still open, along with police stations.
When changes are made to the current custodial exchange schedule or location, get it in writing. This protects all parties.
Supervised Visitation and Covid-19
COVID-19 is not a reason to restrict visits.
Supervised visitation is different on a case by case basis, however, if it’s third party supervised, then it is best to utilize skype, zoom or FaceTime until such time an establishment that facilitates supervised visits opens.
Donna’s House, the court-supervised visitation center in Las Vegas, is currently closed. Make plans for alternative visits or for make-up visitation once the visitation center opens.
Having supervised visitation in the community? Plan visitation at a park or go for a walk or hike, while practicing social distancing.
Not sure how to deal with supervised visitation and Coronavirus? It is probably best to contact a family law attorney for more information.
Tips in The Event You and Your Co-Parent Can’t Make It Work During the Crisis
Our first recommendation is always that you try to work it out with your co-parent during these trying times.
While communicating with your co-parent may not be ideal, it can save you time and money during this difficult time.
When you just can’t work it out with your co-parent, it might be time to seek legal advice.
A qualified and skilled family law attorney can help you with bringing your case to the judge even during this shutdown.
Looking for more advice? Give our office a call at (702) 433-2889, text us, or submit your questions online by using our online form.