Sharing custody of your child can be a challenge under any circumstance. Meshing schedules together and ensuring the best interests of your kids during a national pandemic can seem almost impossible, even when you and the other parent have a strong relationship. With school and business closings, stay-at-home orders in place, and unemployment on the rise, many parents have questions and concerns about their current custody agreements.
Here in Maryland, most courts are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the courts have issued a statement that they will continue hearing urgent matters, which includes family law emergencies for custody, child access, visitation, and support. Judges will expedite matters that are urgent or where the child’s safety may be in danger.
The Maryland Judiciary also released a statement clarifying matters concerning custody and parenting time:
All court orders for a child’s custody, parenting time, and child support are still in effect. In some situations, if permitted under the court order, custodians can jointly adjust their shared parenting responsibilities in ways that they agree are best for the children. If custodians are not able to agree, the court order controls. Working with limited staff, the Circuit Courts are only hearing family law emergencies (custody, child access, visitation, and support) where there is a credible risk of imminent and substantial physical or emotional harm to a child or parent.
As you can see, a court likely will not hear your custody issue unless your child is in immediate physical harm. If this is the case, contact our child custody attorneys as soon as possible so we can help.
Often, a custody agreement allows the parties to modify a schedule by mutual agreement. Most courts and family lawyers are making the general recommendation that, during this time, parents make every effort to stick to their current custody agreement as if the school year were still in session, including holiday and vacation schedules.
Making co-parenting easier during the pandemic
Various experts, including Divorce Magazine, offer suggestions for making shared parenting easier and more effective during these difficult times. The most important thing to remember is that you should both always be working together for your child’s best interests. Consider some of the following tips and advice.
- Self-care. Taking care of your own well-being is critical during times of crisis. Ensure you have strategies in place to connect with others, or find other healthy ways to reduce your stress so you’re at your best for your children.
- Flexibility. During the coronavirus pandemic, things change every day. Circumstances are beyond everyone’s control, and it’s important to try and remain patient if drop-offs and pickups don’t go as planned. Talk about making up missed visitation time in other ways, or using video chats instead.
- Patience and realism. Be patient with your children, your co-parent, and yourself. Be realistic about how much work and learning will be able to get done under the circumstances. Your kids might want to increase their screen time and rules might get bent.
If you haven’t already, ensure your co-parenting plan addresses important COVID-19 matters like:
- Educating your child about coronavirus and contagion-related health risks
- Safety measures and precautions each household is taking
- How each parent will address homeschooling
- If you will need a temporary custody schedule due to quarantine
- Designating emergency communication information for unforeseen circumstances like sickness or hospitalization
The Bethesda family law attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. can answer any questions or concerns you have about your child custody order during these uncertain times. We have your child’s best interests at heart, and provide experienced guidance when you need it most. To schedule a consultation, call 443-917-3347 or reach out to us through our contact form. We maintain additional offices in Rockville, Columbia, and Fulton.