Coronavirus and Family Law: Issues and Resources
I recently joined Tik Tok, and somehow I’ve amassed almost 20,000 followers, who have inundated me with a lot of questions pertaining to family law and children during the COVID-19 crisis. I’ve collected all the top questions, with my responses, below.
Also, the AAML and AFCC have put out a joint statement of 7 Guidelines for Parents
Question: I live in New Jersey and I share custody with the father who lives in New York. My son is suppose to travel to NYC this weekend, but there are over 900 new cases of COVID-19. Can I prevent visitation during this time?
Answer: First thing to do is to call your ex. Chances are, he agrees it’s too dangerous for the child to be with him this weekend. If both of you are putting the interests of your children first during this time, you will both cooperate for any makeup time later. If your spouse is disagreeable and threatens to take you to Court, you have no choice but to file a motion to modify custody (or this may be a situation where ex parte is granted per Family Code 3064.) However, right now the Courts are all closed in Los Angeles county, so get on a call with your attorney for filing as soon as the Courts reopen.
Question: My children are out of school now. And per Governor Newsom, the school year may be out the rest of the year. I am a nurse and I have to go to work. What can I do about childcare?
Answer: If you and your ex share joint custody, and he or she is NOT In the medical field like you, maybe now is a good time for you to discuss temporarily altering the parenting plan so you can work. This will also help reduce the costs of childcare, especially if one of you will have reduced income at this time. If you cannot reach an agreement with your ex, then continue the current court orders regarding custody. If you have the children during the time that you must work, and you have to incur childcare costs, save the receipts (as well as the attempted cooperation and communication with your ex), in preparation for a motion for reimbursement of expenses once courts are reopen.
Question: My ex and I do NOT talk. We hate each other. How do we communicate during this time?
Answer: If you are not on talking terms with the ex, there is no better time than now to reach out. Our country is in a major crisis. At the very least, send an email or texts with just the facts. Share information about the guidelines – hygiene, etc. Make a pact that if one of you, or the child is sick, you will inform each other. Each one of us has a duty to NOT spread this around.
Unfortunately, news outlets are reporting an increase of domestic violence in times of quarantine. This is a very, very tough time for victims of DV. Perpetrators of abuse thrive on control and in pandemic times, they may try to regain the loss of control but acting out. I encourage all of you to stay safe and keep in touch with those who you think may be suffering abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or texting LOVEIS to 22522.
Child Support and Spousal Support
Question: I have been laid off due to coronavirus. There is a current order that I pay child support. Do I need to pay child support during this time?
Answer: Unfortunately, the current order runs until a NEW order is in place. This means that if you do not pay, arrears (with high interest) will accrue. The best thing to do is to file a motion to modify immediately, so the new order will backdate to the date of the filing of the order. If you cannot afford an attorney, go to the local courthouse with a self-help center and ask to file a Request for Order for Modification of Support immediately. Do NOT wait!
Question: I share custody, and I currently receive child support. However, my ex is a doctor and I have been taking the kids full-time. With the full-time care, I have not been able to work from home and expenses are increasing. Am I entitled to more support?
Answer: Until there is a new court order in place, the old orders continue to run, including custody and support. Since the courts are closed now, it would behoove the both of you to WORK together to reach a new written agreement that will last until the pandemic is over. As a reminder, divorce mediation is a great way to resolve disputes and most law offices such as ours are offering virtual mediations during this time.