Those who rely on parenting plans or child custody agreements to coparent their children may have found difficulties in adhering to their previously stable arrangements due to the pandemic. Families are finding that their schedules are not able to withstand some of the stressors, fears, or life changes coming from the coronavirus pandemic. Now, parents are having to maneuver a global pandemic with a child custody plan that may no longer be applicable.
Parents who rely on co-parenting and custody arrangements have found that COVID-19 amplified new or existing issues, whether from states stay-at-home orders or personal fears of infection risk. Normally, parents would be able to shift their lives to account for new situations, but when it comes to court mandated parenting plans, a parent may not have the same ability to adapt.
Fortunately, there are ways to modify or renegotiate a child custody arrangement to account for the vast adjustment’s families are making due to the pandemic, and parents can utilize knowledgeable attorneys to ensure that their rights are respected in these newer plans.
Why Child Custody Plans are Changing
Child custody orders, sometimes referred to as parenting agreements, are typically legal documents that govern how parents can interact with their children after a separation or divorce. A parent’s ability to visit a child, have the child in their home, and other relational aspects are typically listed or explained within a custody agreement. However, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted a parent’s ability to meet obligations under these orders.
As many parents with child custody plans understand, these orders are legally enforceable. By law, a person is obligated to comply with the preexisting custody order, and shifting away from this plan, without the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney, could negatively impact their rights moving forward. Even if a parent believes that their children could have an increased risk of infection at the other parent’s house like if they work an essential job, this may not justify a change of custody plans – and changing from the custody plan may harm a person’s future case of renegotiation if they change without court approval.
How to Renegotiate a Pre-existing Plan
While social obligations, school attendance, and extracurriculars may have been cancelled or modified this does not mean these changes apply to a custody plan. The best way to protect oneself, and your children, with the pandemic in your custody plan is to work with an attorney to update and renegotiate the terms within the preexisting plan to reflect the new environment.
If a parent believes that it is in their child’s best interest to renegotiate the custody arrangement, there are a variety of pathways they could take. There is the informal route a parent could take, where both parents verbally agree to alter the child custody plan in one way or another. One difficulty with this is that it is not legally binding, which could lead to issues in the future if either parent changes their mind regarding the altered custody schedule. However, this can be a popular pathway for parents who do not want to finance the legal counsel or want to make minor changes. However, to protect the parents, it is advisable to have the agreement memorialized in writing, even in an email.
A second possible avenue is to formally change the child custody arrangement, which is a favored decision for parents who cannot reach an agreement on how the plan should change or parents who wish to have a court recognized arrangement. A difficulty with this pathway is that it could take longer to access the courts, which may have backlogs due to COVID-19, and it could be more time-consuming and expensive to establish. Overall, parents may benefit from a legal update to their child custody plan if they want to make exhaustive changes to their plan or are working with an uncooperative co-parent.
Reach Out to a Family Law Attorney Today
The pandemic has destabilized life for many households in addition to complicating the relationships between co-parents, who unfortunately may not always be on the same page when it comes to their children. If you or someone you know is looking to renegotiate a child custody plan due to changes from the COVID-19 pandemic, our family law firm may be able to help.
At the Capital Family & Divorce Law Group, we understand the difficulties and emotions that come with creating or renegotiating child custody plans, which may be even more complex with the pandemic. Our team of legal advocates could help you understand your legal situation and help you plan the best path forward for you and your children and what you want within your child custody arrangement.
Contact our team today to learn more about what we could do for you and your family.