There’s a vaccine. Schools are working on in person instruction plans going forward. However, COVID-19 is still infecting and killing far too many people in the United States. In the beginning of this pandemic, lawyers had no idea how to advise clients how to deal with changing parenting time situations because this was uncharted territory. Now, in New Jersey, it seems clear that most judges, though not all, are looking toward a more conservatively oriented parents’ viewpoint on COVID restrictions while maintaining as much normalcy as remains safe for the child.
Concerns about COVID, decisions about parenting time, custody and selecting the right in person, virtual, or hybrid school programs for children will continue to be an issue that arises. There are mechanisms in the court for addressing these issues in an emergency fashion if they reach the standard of irreparable harm, but for the most part you may wait 30-45 or more days to get in front of a judge to make decisions about how to address parenting time issues. Sometimes, one parent will use COVID restrictions as a means of gaining an advantage in a custody or divorce dispute, but other times it is really and truly out of safety concerns for the child.
As attorneys, we advise a practical approach to these issues. Sometimes you can get in to a mediator or parent coordinator, or negotiate the matter more effectively with lawyers involved, more quickly than getting it in front of a judge. Each situation is unique.
Above all, when negotiating these rough waters consider the following:
- Anything you say can and will be used in a court of law. Seriously. Those texts of you calling your ex names over this issue will not help you when the judge reads them. Don’t do it. Always be reasonable, professional and with a clear analysis of what’s in your child’s best interest when communicating with your ex.
- What’s best for your child? You know, maybe you hate one another but if you step back and think about the situation, it really is better for little Johnny to forgo in person visits for a few weeks since you’re just back from Aruba. Negotiate for frequent FaceTime or Zoom visits: the fact is, kids are adjusting to the virtual connections they are required to maintain and it may not be harmful to your relationship at all.
- Consult an attorney. Preferably one who is going to tell you a path to a reasonable solution rather than try to take a stance that is only going to cost you money and lead to no good result.
If you would like to talk to a lawyer about these issues, give us a call 856-227-7888. Be careful out there!