How Do I Manage Child Support and Shared Custody During the COVID-19 Crisis?
The COVID-19 pandemic is frightening for any parent, but it’s especially stressful for parents who are sharing custody of their children in the midst of this crisis. Your kids might have come to visit you over spring break, but now, school has been canceled because of the virus. Do you still have to send them back to the other parent’s place? Will the other parent send your children back to you if it is your scheduled time with them? What happens to child support requirements if you’ve lost your job due to the pandemic?
Below, we’ll discuss some of the issues that families are facing due to the coronavirus pandemic and what you can do to ensure that your time with your children and your finances are protected during this uncertain time.
Does My Child Custody Arrangement Change Because of the COVID-19 Lockdown?
Governor Polis (as well as many government officials in Denver and many surrounding counties) has issued a mandatory stay-at-home order, which requires everyone in the area to stay home unless they are performing an essential activity. During this lockdown, many parents are wondering if exchanging children with the other parent is an essential activity.
The simple answer is yes. Colorado’s coronavirus-related orders currently permit people to leave home to comply with a court order. Therefore, if you have current parenting time orders, exchanging your child(ren) with the other parent is an essential activity and an exception to the stay at home order. Even the strictest lockdown orders in the United States still allow people to drive to pick up or drop off children.
If you refuse to let your children visit or stay with the other parent due to the coronavirus, you might violate your custody order and jeopardize your future custody rights. In most cases, child custody orders remain in place unless a court changes them. This means that parents are expected to make every reasonable effort to follow their order.
It’s easier to comply with your custody order if you and your co-parent live within driving distance of each other, but what if they live in another state? What if you’re worried that your kids will be exposed to COVID-19 while they’re flying to the other parent’s place? While COVID-19 orders haven’t banned people from flying domestically, airlines have canceled several flights. If your co-parent lives out of state, you might have to find other ways to transport your kids between each of your homes.
In these types of situations, it’s vital to communicate openly and honestly with your co-parent. Express your concerns about your kids’ safety and do your best to work together to find the best solution for your children. Try to be as flexible as possible with the other parent in the midst of these highly unusual circumstances. For example, if one parent has to miss out on a planned visitation because of travel restrictions, work with them to try to make up the time later.
If you and the other parent can’t agree on a parenting plan, a knowledgeable family law attorney can help advise you of your options and help you protect your legal rights.
What Happens to Child Support or Maintenance Payments During This Uncertain Time?
If you lost your job because of the coronavirus or you’re temporarily working fewer hours during the pandemic, do you still have to pay child support or maintenance for adult children?
Under Colorado law, yes – you are legally required to continue child support or maintenance payments as directed in your child support order. Keep in mind that courts calculate child support based on all sources of income, including unemployment benefits, severance pay, and coronavirus-related government assistance, in addition to typical wages.
You might be able to apply for a modification to your support obligations. However, until a judge approves this modification, it’s critical to try to continue paying as much as you can. This will help your case before the judge if you ultimately decide to file for a modification.
Additionally, it’s vital to speak with your ex about your employment situation. In the midst of these unusual circumstances, your former partner might be willing to work with you on a change in payments – even if they have previously been uncooperative.
If your ex loses their job due to the pandemic, try to be generous and understanding towards them. For example, consider allowing them to suspend child support payments if you can cover the kids’ basic needs on your current income.
However, keep in mind that any agreed upon change to child support (even if temporary) should be in writing, and preferably filed with the court. Even if your co-parent agrees to temporarily modify your obligations, it’s critical to write down the terms you discuss, sign the document and have the other parent sign it, and submit the agreement to the court.
How Can I Protect My Rights and My Kids in the Midst of This Pandemic?
Overall, it’s critical to communicate with your co-parent during this crisis to help reduce the impact on your kids. Be as transparent as possible if you or the children exhibit symptoms of the virus, or if you think you might have been exposed to it.
Additionally, discuss the precautions you will each take to try to keep the kids healthy. For example, you and your co-parent might agree to educate your children on proper handwashing techniques and consistently model these health measures in both households. Try to agree on ways you’ll protect your children’s mental and emotional health as well, such as answering the kids’ questions or limiting exposure to the news and social media.
Contact Us Today
With the continually changing news and regulations surrounding COVID-19, it can be difficult to know how it might impact your child custody and support arrangements. However, you don’t have to face this scary and confusing situation alone.
Halligan LLC is here to help you understand how the current laws apply to your case and help you protect your legal rights. We have the in-depth experience needed to help you get the best possible outcome for you and your family.
Our compassionate family law team is here for you throughout this crisis. We have several ways that you can reach us, while also respecting social distancing precautions. Our team diligently responds to calls, emails, and messages, and we are available for consultations via video conferencing. Give us a call at (720) 608-2361 or contact us online today.