Now that the world has been forced to confront and deal with implications of COVID-19 for several months, probably the only thing you can be certain about is the uncertainty that surrounds the pandemic. Living in a constant state of flux, bombarded with new information and lockdowns, has affected everyone. However, individuals who are co-parenting children face unique challenges with a moving target of custody and visitation issues. One of the most recent developments with far-reaching implications for parents is the New York City Department of Education’s decision to close after a recent resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Students will be returning on various schedules for in-person and blended learning.
Even if you are not yet struggling with custody and visitation in an ever-changing world, there is a good chance that you will. When that point comes, you will probably have many questions about modifying your arrangement, along with any related child support issues. You can rely on your New York child custody attorney for personalized details, but some general answers may be helpful.
How do I request a modification of child custody? If the COVID-19 resurgence results in a situation where you need to change your arrangement beyond something temporary, you will need court approval. The existing arrangement for custody and visitation is part of a binding court order. You must request the court to make changes by filing a Custody/Visitation Modification Petition. For petitions based upon how COVID-19 has affected your parenting plan, the basis will likely be a change in circumstances.
What constitutes a change in circumstances? Every case is unique, so there is no bright-line test for meeting this legal requirement. The point is showing that the landscape is significantly different compared to when the current order for child custody and support was entered. Whether the issue is related to a parent or the child, changes triggered by COVID-19 could make things impossible or impractical.
Will I need to go to court to modify? Through your attorney, you will need to file the petition and go through the court process for modification. However, you may not have to actually attend a hearing if you and your spouse can agree on the changes and the grounds for making them. If you cannot agree, it will be necessary to conduct a hearing on how COVID-19 has changed your circumstances.
What factors does a judge look at in ruling on a petition to modify? In disputes over a custody modification, the court is required to make a ruling according to New York’s standard on the best interests of the child. Factors include work schedules and child care plans, both of which may have been disrupted by COVID-19. Still, there are many other considerations, including:
- The child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs;
- The mental and physical health of the parents;
- The child’s wishes, if age appropriate;
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to cooperate regarding parenting issues; and,
- How will a custody modification affect child support? Keep in mind that, if the court grants a petition to modify a parenting plan, there may be implications for child support obligations. In some cases, the change could mean adjustments to the amount or a switch in who pays support.
Our New York Child Custody Lawyers Can Answer Your Questions About Modification
Though this information may be useful, it is essential to speak with an experienced attorney to get details that are custom-tailored to your circumstances. To learn more about modifying your current arrangement for child custody, visitation, and support, please contact The Mandel Law Firm. You can call (646) 770-3868 or go online to schedule a consultation at our offices in Manhattan.