Adjusting to a new co-parenting plan, while helping your children become acclimated to your new family dynamic after a divorce, is a challenging task. The recent COVID-19 stay-at-home order has made that adjustment even more taxing for families attempting to incorporate their parenting plans into these new restrictions.

Adapting to the health crisis

The novelty of this pandemic presents many unprecedented conflicts and concerns for parents dealing with custody arrangements. Here is what you should know regarding how the current stay-at-home orders are affecting child custody plans:

  • With schools closed, many parents are having to adjust to new work conditions or deal with the aftermath of a layoff while producing lesson plans for children who suddenly need to be home-schooled. The financial hardships created by the pandemic puts many parents in tricky situations when it comes to child support.
  • North Carolina courts are closed (with a few exceptions). This order means that family law courts are mainly unavailable to issue court orders and enforce rulings. Though the pandemic could very well meet the ‘substantial change of circumstances’ criteria for modifying custody, the courts may be unavailable to enforce a modification for the time being, unless an emergency situation arises.  However, the clerk’s offices are open for filings of motions or original complaints for the court to consider immediately upon re-opening of the court system.  Thus, now is an appropriate time to consider preparing your plans and paperwork with a reputable family law attorney.
  • Because many child exchange locations remain situated at schools, the current closings make it necessary for parents to choose an alternative (and less crowded) drop-off location.
  • Parents living out-of-state, in areas where COVID-19 rates may be elevated, are being asked by state agencies to exercise patience while working to maintain public safety and the safety of their children. In many cases, this adjustment means that one parent must take on more of the parenting responsibility to avoid spreading the infection.
  • The health and safety of your children is paramount during this trying time. The advice of your family physician, plus known health risks of your family members, should be taken into account.  Governor Cooper’s order and Chief Justice Cheri Beasley have both indicated that custody arrangements should carry on as ordered, short of something that warrants a true emergency.  If there is a question as to whether something rises to an emergency, it is best to consult with a certified specialist in family law to help you navigate these questions.

Maintaining your family’s health

The added stress of stay-at-home orders during this COVID-19 outbreak puts many parents in compromising positions. If you think that your ex-spouse has been in contact with a person with COVID-19, is not following social distancing orders or is putting your children in situations that could place them at risk of contracting the virus, you may want to ask them to agree to a temporary custody change of custody. If you’re concerned over the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on your children while they are in your ex-spouse’s custody, contact an attorney experienced in family law to help clarify your options in this ever-changing legal landscape.