The global health pandemic, COVID-19, is impacting everyone’s life in some shape or form. In order to slow the spread of the virus and decrease the risk of contracting the virus, the CDC has stated that people should practice social distancing. With the exception of needing essential services, people should stay at home during this time.
For parents of divorce, though, coronavirus can complicate custody matters. With divorced parents sharing custody, it isn’t easy determining how you should proceed during these uncertain times while keeping your family safe. If you are in this situation, here are a few guidelines to follow.
New Jersey Child Custody and COVID-19
Divorce and child custody problems are already challenging enough for children to experience. That’s why it’s best to work with your co-parent to put your children’s best interests first. This is a scary time for everyone right now, but by doing this, parents can minimize some of the uncertainty their children may feel during this time.
There are no official guidelines in New Jersey on changing custody because of COVID-19 at the moment. However, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) has suggested seven guidelines for divorced and separated parents to follow while managing custody during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parents that are separated or divorced should keep the following guidelines for custody in mind during the pandemic:
Be healthy by following CDC and New Jersey guidelines, and staying informed on what are the best practices for keeping you and your loved ones healthy
Be mindful of how you speak with your children about COVID-19. You want to explain to them the seriousness of the situation without causing panic.
Be compliant with mandated court orders and custody agreements. Custody agreements should continue to be followed as normally as possible unless it jeopardizes your child’s safety.
Be creative with how you address the new changes in your new routine. Since children are out of school, and you may be either working from home or have experienced a loss of work, you will be spending more time with your children. Think of ways you can help them with school or how to spend quality time. If your child is in the custody of their other parent, try to come up with some fun games or activities to do over video chat.
Be transparent with your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed COVID-19 exposures to you, your children, or the people you live nearby. At this point, you and your co-parent can discuss what options you have to best support the safety of your children.
Be generous by providing makeup time to your co-parent, if possible. If your co-parent isn’t able to spend their visitation time with your children, be flexible and offer solutions for more video chats, phone calls, or extended visitation time in the future. Be as accommodating as possible, and think about how you would feel if the situation was reversed. If custody issues arise and you must go to court, the court will want to see parents working together for their child’s best interests.
Be understanding about any adversities or economic hardships that your co-parent might face. Because COVID-19 is having a severe impact on the economy, many are losing their income and cannot pay child support. Keep this in mind if your co-parent is in a similar situation, and work with them to come up with a solution. Alternatively, if you are the parent experiencing this, try to provide something even if it is not the entire amount.
Coming together to focus on your child’s well-being during the pandemic is the most important thing you can do right now. Many things are out of your control right now, but you do have the ability to keep your child safe right now.
Protect Your Family with our Chester Child Custody Lawyers
In the event of an emergency, you can access the court. If your child’s safety is at risk due to your custody agreement, or your child’s other parent is not allowing you access to your child, you may be qualified to obtain an emergency custody modification.
Your children’s health and safety come first. If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 and your custody agreement, or if you need help obtaining an emergency child custody modification, do not hesitate to reach out to our Chester family law attorneys.
To set up a virtual consultation, call today at (908) 259-6565.