The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has turned the world upside down for many people in the United States and throughout the world. Many of us are living under “shelter in place” or “stay at home” orders, and only businesses that have been deemed essential are allowed to be open.
This situation can be extremely difficult for people who are having marital issues or who share custody of their children. Can you get divorced right now? Aren’t the courts closed? Do I have to stick to my custody arrangement? These and other questions can be a significant source of stress and anxiety, but they have answers, and the lawyers of MTSA are here to help.
Divorce During Coronavirus
If you were considering getting a divorce before the pandemic shuttered the courts, we have some good news: you can still file and get the process started. In fact, since divorce requires a significant amount of preparation, this may be an ideal time for you to start to collect the documentation you are going to need to start the process of separating your financial lives and strike out on your own.
Some of the things you can do to prepare for your divorce include:
- Determine how much you and your spouse earn
- Take stock of all of your assets and liabilities
- Check all of your investment and retirement accounts
- Review copies of your tax returns for the last year or two
In addition, you should gather the documentation and paperwork you will need to establish separate bank accounts, get credit cards, or rent an apartment. This means finding your birth certificate, social security card, passport, and other personal documentation that you may not have needed for years.
In the event that you are in a dangerous situation involving domestic violence, it’s important to keep in mind that you have resources available to you, and the pandemic should not prevent you from sheltering elsewhere. You can still obtain temporary restraining orders against alleged abusers at this time, and there are still options to find shelter at this time.
Co-Parenting and Shared Custody
For parents who have already divorced or who were never married and share custody of their children, issues regarding custody can be confusing, difficult, and even downright scary. With the kids out of school, no sports, no music lessons, and nothing on the calendar, you may be wondering whether you need to stick to your custody arrangement at all. Furthermore, in some cases, it may put your or your child at risk to comply with your child custody order, particularly if your child’s other parent is showing symptoms or engaging in risky behavior.
Comply with the Terms of Your Custody Arrangement as Much as You Can
California’s shelter in place order does not invalidate your child custody order, so it’s important that you stick to your existing arrangement as much as possible. That said, if doing so would put you or your child at risk, you should speak to an attorney about your options. Additionally, you should check your current custody arrangement to see whether it contains any language that indicates how you should handle school closures, natural disasters, or other extraordinary circumstances.
Communicate with Your Child’s Other Parent
It’s critical to maintain an open line of communication with your child’s other parent. If you feel like it’s unsafe to share custody right now, express that to him or her. Hopefully, you can come to some arrangement that works for everyone. Modern technology has made it easier to keep in touch than ever before, and maybe you or your child’s other parent will be amenable to FaceTime or Zoom visits instead of spending time with your child in person.
In addition, you should discuss social distancing and a general safety protocol with your child’s other parent. If he or she is not practicing social distancing or following other guidance, it could put you and your child at risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Some of the things that you should talk about include your views on:
- Outdoor activities
- Face mask protocols
- Distancing while outdoors
- Interactions with pets and other people
In the event that your child’s other parent is ignoring guidance or public safety orders, you should call your attorney before making a custody swap. In some cases, it may be possible to obtain a temporary custody order so that you can protect your child from exposure to the virus.
Do Not Kidnap Your Own Child
As a parent, it’s only natural to want to protect your child as much as possible. The last thing you should do, however, is decide to completely ignore your custody order and take your child somewhere “safe.” Doing so could result in serious legal repercussions, including loss of your parental rights and kidnapping charges.
Discuss Your Situation with an Attorney
These are extraordinary times, and courts understand that it may not be possible to fully comply with the terms of an existing custody arrangement. If you believe that your current custody arrangement puts you or your child at risk of exposure to the coronavirus or that it is no longer in the best interests of your child, speak to an attorney as soon as you can. A lawyer may be able to help negotiate an informal resolution to your issue while documenting your agreement so that you can avoid any problems should your child’s other parent later claim that you were in breach of your custody order. In addition, should you need to seek an emergency custody order, a lawyer may be able to help you obtain one.
Contact Us Today to Discuss Your Case with a San Jose Divorce Lawyer
If you are considering getting a divorce or are having issues with co-parenting, you should call our office immediately. MTSA Family Law Group is continuing to operate during this time, and our lawyers are available to both existing and new clients through video consultations and telephone. To schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our team, call our office today at (408) 244-4570 (San Jose) or (650) 381-0467 (San Mateo).
You can also reach us online through our online contact form.