To say we are living in unprecedented times is an understatement. Schools are closed, the Courts are hearing only urgent/emergency applications, and most of us are working remotely. We are being asked to practice social distancing, self-isolate or quarantine. For people with Parenting Order or Agreements in place, this can be a very confusing time.
Parents may wonder whether their Parenting Order is still in place, what to do about child support if they or their ex-spouse has lost their job, and what to do if their co-parent is not abiding by the same coronavirus prevention practices that they are.
The answer to that first question is that, yes – all court orders remain in full force and effect during the COVID-19 crisis. Parenting schedules remain unchanged, as do child support orders. Parenting Orders/Agreements are not automatically amended as a result of the crisis.
If the terms of your Parenting and/or Child Support Order are no longer working for your family, your first option is likely to try to discuss with your co-parent. If you two can work out a reasonable variation, put this into writing and do what works for you. This can be incorporated into a Consent Court Order now (through the Court’s desk order process) or once the Courts have reopened.
If you have issues regarding the parenting schedule, start by having a frank discussion you’re your ex-spouse, if possible. Some flexibility may need to be incorporated into the schedule if you are both working at home when the children are in your care. If you are concerned about the other parent’s prevention practices, have a discussion about what you are both doing to protect the children and see if you can come up with some ground rules for both households. There is likely to be disagreement on these issues, but this is an opportunity to try to identify where your ex-spouse is coming from (it could be anxiety regarding the children’s well-being or defensiveness regarding what they view as an attack on their parenting skills) and try to find common ground as to what is in the children’s best interests.
If you cannot come to an agreement with your co-parent, you should reach out to a lawyer. The lawyers at Vogel LLP are well-versed in the options to resolve parenting and child support conflicts with or without the help of the Courts. This might include negotiation between counsel, the use of a Parenting Coordinator (with or without the ability to make decisions like a judge) and/or private mediation/arbitration. All of these options can take place remotely – by correspondence, phone and video-technology. Many of our lawyers are already conducting mediation/arbitration and Questioning via Zoom.
If your issue is urgent or an emergency, you can still be heard in Court. Our lawyers are able to help you with this process, which includes securing a date through the Court and then filing the appropriate materials – usually an Application and Affidavit (a document with your sworn evidence relating to the Application).
If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact the lawyers at Vogel LLP to schedule a consultation where we can discuss your issues, options for resolution and next steps. Consultations can be done via phone, Skype or Zoom. We at Vogel LLP wish to help you keep your family safe, stable and functioning during this difficult time.