The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in our daily lives. Schools are closed, parents are working from home, and some have lost their jobs. Life is not what it was just a few months ago.
Children are now with parents all day—every day. Parents are now responsible for their children’s educational needs, entertainment, and overall well-being.
These things are tough enough when there are two parents in the same house, but there are many cases where children divide their time between two parents and two homes.
Successful Co-Parenting With Custody Orders
Divorced parents may have existing joint custody and visitation orders in place, or no orders are placed and the separated parties co-parent by verbal agreement. In most cases, the best interests of the children are to spend time with both parents and for both parents to share parenting responsibilities.
People often ask whether their custody order is enforceable given the current stay at home orders. The short answer is—yes. The reality is some parents are refusing to abide by custody orders by using COVID-19 restrictions to avoid sharing the children with the other parent.
Verbal Custody Agreements
Some parents have reached verbal agreements through successful co-parenting on how the children will be shared during this pandemic.
But what happens when the stay at home orders are no longer in effect? Is there an agreement to return to the court ordered parenting plan? Have you not been able to see your children because the other parent has withheld them from you during this time? What remedies, if any, do you have? Can you go to court to enforce the existing order?
If you have an existing custody/visitation order or parenting strategy and you and the other parent have agreed to change it to accommodate the COVID-19 restrictions, you should:
- Make sure any agreements which change the terms and conditions of the court order are in writing. It is worth the time and effort to memorialize any changes both parties have made during this time. Specify both parties agree to abide by the original court order once it is safe to do so.
- You should have the agreement reviewed by an attorney to ensure it is complete and ready to file with the court once the court re-opens May 26, 2020. If you do not have an attorney, you should still memorialize the agreement and file it with the court.
If the other parent is not abiding by the court order, you should:
- Keep a log of each time you have been refused contact with your children, either in person or on the phone. Keeping track of all violations will make it easier to prepare a declaration for the court if you decide to seek court intervention to enforce the order.
Relief Is Available Upon Request
The San Diego Superior Court Family Law Division deals with custody visitation issues on an emergency basis despite being closed for other matters. If you believe your situation is a true emergency, you can go to court and ask for emergency relief.
JWB Family Law remains open and available to answer your questions and concerns about custody and visitation issues, the enforceability of current court orders, or establishing an enforceable order.
If you have concerns about your children, your current order, or any other questions about family law, call for a 30-minute consultation. You can connect with us via phone and video access, such as Zoom. Our attorneys and staff are here to help you through this uncertain time and help you obtain the relief you need.
The Importance of the CFLS Designation
A Certified Family Law Specialist, or CFLS, is an attorney who has obtained certification in the standards of California family law and demonstrated optimal legal competence. Attorneys who obtain this certification have specific expertise in all aspects of family law, which includes divorce or the dissolution of marriage, child and spousal support, child custody, and temporary restraining orders, among other areas of emphasis.
Not every attorney practicing family law has obtained this certification. In fact, the designation remains relatively rare—there are fewer than 2,000 CFLS attorneys in California and fewer than 200 in San Diego.