COVID-19 Co-Parenting Tips For Divorcing or Divorced Parents
Tips for Co-Parenting in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Shared custody can be difficult to navigate in ideal circumstances; adding the stress and uncertainty of a pandemic to a custody arrangement can multiply the difficulties.
The Ramos Law Group, PLLC has been fielding many inquiries as to how parents should handle child custody arrangements in the uncertain waters caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Every case is different, if you have questions about your specific custody agreement you should contact a licensed family law attorney. In general, parents should keep the following in mind when it comes to their child possession order and the pandemic.
- Follow all state and local laws.
The Texas Supreme Court and local county courts have all issued edicts stating that travel for possession exchange is essential travel. That being said, it’s important to follow the terms of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders.
- Follow your existing custody order.
Neither the State of Texas or county family law courts have suspended or modified the terms of any custody order due to the pandemic. Failure to follow the terms of your possession order can result in negative consequences such as being found in contempt of court or being ordered to pay attorney’s fees. Judges are not looking kindly on parents using Covid-19 as a tool to withhold children from the other parent.
- Be flexible and understanding.
While it is imperative parents should continue to follow the terms of their existing custody orders, circumstances are changing day to day and we are facing a health crisis. If a parent is sick and unable to exercise a period of possession or wants to temporarily modify the terms due to changes in work or other circumstances, we highly encourage parties to come to an amicable resolution. These are trying times and the courts have limited docket space. Not everything needs to be litigated through attorneys, reaching out and open lines of communication can solve a lot of problems. Giving the other parent-conservator a bit of grace during these tumultuous times is not a bad thing.
- Reach out to an attorney for help.
While we hope you are able to solve any problems amongst yourselves, if there is a legitimate problem that needs legal intervention, call an attorney immediately. Texas family law courts are open for essential and emergency matters; your problem may be an essential matter that can be solved quickly. If domestic violence occurs or a parent is withholding a child in violation of a court order, those are issues that can be litigated even while courts are shut down. Contact your attorney as soon as the issue arises.
- Continue paying your child support.
Our country is facing unprecedented levels of unemployment and there are millions of Texas residents who have recently lost their jobs, had pay/hours reduced, or have been furloughed. A Texas child support obligation is not modified until a court order with a new child support amount has been issued. Your child support obligation remains unchanged and you can be found in contempt for failure to pay. That being said, if you are unemployed it may be difficult or impossible to continue to make your monthly child support payments.
Contact an attorney as soon as possible (or the Office of the Attorney General if unable to afford an attorney) to begin the process of having your child support recalculated. This will take time and there will not be immediate relief, but you should get the process started as soon as possible.
Continue to pay the child support as ordered or as close to as ordered as possible. If your health insurance has been terminated, take the necessary steps to obtain private health insurance or state-provided insurance such as CHIPS for the children.
These are difficult times we are living in and, while Texas is taking steps to reopen, we might be living in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic for quite some time. Do your absolute best to co-parent and follow your existing custody orders but also advocate for your legal rights if circumstance require it. Contact the legal team at Ramos Law Group, PLLC if you have additional questions or would like to discuss the your specific case.