The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has had a profound impact on every aspect of life for millions of Americans, but parents who are trying to stay in compliance with orders pursuant to New York’s child custody statute (i.e. parenting plan) are finding themselves in a unique quandary. It’s not easy sticking to a parenting time and visitation schedule under the circumstances. Some people are trying to work remotely, while others considered essential employees are dealing with long, unpredictable hours and workloads. The COVID-19 has created a situation that’s prime for custody disputes, arguments over visitation, and other hassles that would typically require court intervention to resolve.
The good news is that the New York State Unified Court system is up and running, conducting hearings virtually throughout the state. There are significant logistical challenges, however, so having a judge address custody battles should probably be considered a last resort in all but emergency situations. Instead of going through a formal hearing, it might be worth trying to reach an agreement with assistance from a New York child custody and visitation attorney. Some tips and factors may help you realize the advantages of going this route.
Know the Requirements by Law: Though you have some flexibility in creating a parenting plan for custody and visitation, there are some necessary components. First, the agreement must comply with New York’s best interests of the child and the court will review it to ensure it meets the standard. Second, parents must address:
- Physical Custody: This refers to the child’s residence and who acts as caretaker. Parents can have sole or joint physical custody, so your plan should outline the details.
- Legal Custody: The focus of this type of custody is decision-making regarding key aspects of raising your child, and it can be a joint arrangement. Legal custody involves education, health care, religion, and other essential topics.
Include Details Regarding Visitation and Parenting Time: The more details you include in your parenting plan, the less likely you are to find yourself in court. You don’t have to lay out a complete schedule, but you should provide a formula from which to calculate visitation time. Many parents work out an arrangement of alternating weeks and/or weekends, plus a schedule for school vacations and holidays. You should make sure to include some flexibility to allow for unexpected events, and this COVID-19 crisis is a good example.
Allow for a Parenting Plan Review: When negotiating your agreement, consider the fact that the needs of the children may change over time. Plus, each parent may encounter new circumstances over the years. You might include a provision in your parenting plan that the parties should review and discuss potential modifications every 1-2 years or so.
Specify Information Sharing: Parenting is a collaborative effort, regardless of the fact that you don’t live under the same roof. It’s in your child’s best interests that, as parents, you regularly share information on:
- Grades, test scores, and educational endeavors;
- All medical records and doctor’s visits;
- School or other disciplinary matters;
- Travel itineraries;
- Emergency contact information; and,
- Many other aspects of your child’s life.
A New York Child Custody and Visitation Lawyer Can Advise You on Options
While not all child custody disputes can be resolved by agreement during the COVID-19 crisis, reaching a compromise is certainly preferable to going through the court process at this difficult time. Our team at The Mandel Law Firm has extensive experience in helping clients work out custody and visitation issues by facilitating productive discussions and taking the emotion out of the picture. Please contact our Manhattan office at (646) 770-3868 or visit our website to set up a consultation right away.