By Amanda Vann, 301.563.6685
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone. Parents working from home, online distance learning from home for children, and the implementation of social distancing measures have all been reasons that custody agreements have had to be modified. The changes are challenging and fluid. Parents who are co-parenting from different households are facing new challenges during this difficult time. What happens to the custody schedule one parent is exposed to COVID-19 and needs to self-quarantine for 14 days? How do you address child support payments if parents are out of work? What can you do if one parent does not follow the COVID-19 precautions recommended by the medical professionals and implemented by the government?
These are just some of the questions I am receiving from clients. The simple answer to all of these questions is, “it depends” on the specific facts of your case and the court orders and agreements in place between the parties, which will determine how to answer these difficult questions.
What happens to the custody schedule one parent is exposed to COVID-19 and needs to self-quarantine for 14 days? If one parent is diagnosed with COVID-19 and needs to recover and quarantine, both parents should be flexible with the established custody schedule allowing the children to Facetime and talk regularly until such time as a medical professional deems the quarantine period can be lifted.
How do you address child support payments if parents are out of work? Many parents are now working from home or have been laid off due to COVID-19 closures. They are also now juggling online distance learning from home for their child’s schooling and summer-camp closures. Both parents will need to remain flexible to ensure that their child is properly cared for while in their care and can get their school work done. While there may be some disagreements about the new schedule, you must continue to make changes to ensure that your child sees both parents and both parents can meet the changes to their employment.
If one parent has lost their job, this does not mean that there is no child support obligation. The parties can work out an agreement amongst themselves regarding when child support can be paid. However, you should remember that if there is a court order in place for child support payments, you must adhere to the court order until the court changes the order if asked to do so. Just because the parents may agree to a child support payment arrangement doesn’t mean that the court will grant that agreement and change the existing support order. Ensure that if you decide to make a temporary change to your agreement, it is done in writing to avoid future issues. Be as specific as you can with the terms of the written agreement so that there is no dispute regarding the intent and changes agreed on.
What can you do if one parent does not take the advice and recommendations for COVID-19 precautions and is not socially distancing? This is a tough question to answer. If a parent is not following the medical professionals’ guidelines when the child is in their care, then you should immediately consult with an attorney about the specific facts to see what your next steps should be. If the child is in harm’s way and is being exposed to any forms of abuse or neglect, you should immediately call the police and talk with an attorney about the options you have. Additionally, if one parent is not following the medical professionals’ COVID-19 precautions when the child is not in their care, you should talk with an attorney regarding the impact this will have on physical custody and the custody schedule. Each situation is different, and the specific facts to your matter will impact how to address the issue adequately.
If you have specific questions regarding the impact COVID-19 is having on your custody schedule or child support, please contact me online or call 301.563.6685.
Andalman & Flynn, P.C. serves clients throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, offering compassionate, quality service and results-driven representation across a broad range of legal areas. With a concentration on disability benefits law and family law, the firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone, and they are there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical. For more information about Andalman & Flynn, please visit our website or call 301.563.6685.