Addressing Post-Divorce Child Custody Issues During the COVID-19 Crisis

Whether you recently got divorced or have been sharing custody of your children with your ex-spouse for several years, it is likely that the coronavirus pandemic has affected your situation.

Child Custody Issues During COVID-19: mother places mask on daughter

Have you been experiencing child custody issues during COVID-19?

Whether you recently got divorced or have been sharing custody of your children with your ex-spouse for several years, it is likely that the coronavirus pandemic has affected your situation. Even if you or those close to you have not been infected, you may have struggled to maintain consistent routines while following stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements. Since COVID-19 cases are still occurring throughout the United States, these issues will continue to play a major role in your lives in the near future.

There are a wide variety of child custody issues during COVID-19 that may require you to reexamine your child custody agreements and determine whether any modifications need to be made. Due to the closure of schools and child care facilities, you may have already made some adjustments to your schedules to ensure that your children are being cared for. You may have also needed to address issues related to the loss of employment, changing work schedules, or working at home. 

Even though you may have intended the changes you have made to be temporary, continuing concerns related to the pandemic may have led you to consider whether more permanent solutions will be necessary. In some cases, this may be somewhat difficult, since many courts have closed or are operating at limited capacity. However, by working with a child custody attorney, you can review your options and determine the steps you can take to address your family’s ongoing needs, both in the near future and in the months and years to come.

Here Are Tips on How to Address Child Custody Issues During COVID-19

Maintaining Safety

Protecting your children’s health and well-being is going to be your primary concern as you navigate child custody issues during COVID-19. You will want to minimize the risks of infection while children are in the care of both parents, as well as while they are participating in any activities outside of the home. 

To ensure that your family remains safe, both parents should be sure to follow all applicable regulations and guidelines to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Parents and children should wear masks when necessary and follow social distancing recommendations. 

If a parent or another family member has become infected or exposed to the coronavirus, they should follow quarantine restrictions and avoid contact with others until they are no longer contagious. If this means that a parent will not be able to have their scheduled visitation or parenting time with their children, parents can work together to find solutions, such as using videoconferencing tools to maintain face-to-face contact as much as possible.

If you believe that your ex-spouse is not taking the proper steps to ensure that your children are safe, you may need to take legal action to address this issue. If necessary, you can file an emergency motion asking the court to require the other parent to use the proper measures to protect against infections. If your ex continues to act in a way that puts your children at risk, you may then ask the court to modify your child custody order to address these concerns.

One other safety-related issue that has affected many families is the increased likelihood of odomestic violence or abuse. These cases may occur because of the increased stress that many families are experiencing due to stay-at-home requirements and the need to provide round-the-clock childcare. If you believe that your children are at risk of suffering abuse by a parent or another person in their household, you may want to consider obtaining an emergency order of protection to prevent any harm to your children.

Modifying Child Custody and Visitation

As your family addresses the changes you have experienced in your lives, you may have already made some temporary adjustments to the ways you share in making decisions about your children or to the schedules for when children will stay with each parent. Since the COVID-19 crisis may continue to affect families for several months to come, you may be considering making some permanent changes to your child custody arrangements.

You may believe that changes to child custody or visitation are necessary based on the need for a parent to stay home with children when they would normally be in school, because of adjustments to parents’ work schedules, or for a variety of other reasons. If necessary, you may be able to use mediation to work out an agreement with the other parent about these changes.

If you cannot agree on whether or how your child custody order should be changed, you may need to pursue a modification in court. In these cases, you will need to provide evidence showing that your proposed changes will be in the children’s best interests. 

Addressing Child Support and Financial Issues

In addition to considering temporary or permanent changes to child custody or parenting time, parents may need to address changes to their financial circumstances. If a parent loses their job or suffers a loss of income due to a cutback in work hours, they may struggle to meet their financial obligations. However, child support orders will remain in effect unless they are modified by the court, so parents will need to address these issues promptly to avoid potential penalties for non-payment of support.

If you find yourself unable to pay child support, or if adjustments to child custody or visitation have led to difficulty providing for your children’s needs, you may be able to request a modification of child support. Your existing child support obligations will remain in effect until modifications are ordered by the court. However, modifications may be retroactive to the date in which you filed your request. By acting quickly, you may be able to minimize the long-term financial difficulties that you experience.

Working Together to Protect Children’s Best Interests

Many families are currently dealing with difficulties related to the coronavirus pandemic. Even though you may be under a great deal of stress, you will want to do everything you can to protect your children’s safety and ensure that their needs are being met. By working together as co-parents, you and your ex-spouse can do what is necessary to provide for your children’s best interests. If you live in Illinois and need to address matters related to child custody, child support, or visitation, a DuPage County divorce lawyer can help you understand your options and work with you to request any necessary modifications.

Attorney Sean P. Sullivan has over 10 years of experience in the fields of family law and business law. He and the DuPage County divorce attorneys at SBK Law Group provide dedicated representation for clients, helping them resolve highly contested disputes and find effective solutions to their legal issues.

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