Divorce and Parenting While Sheltering-in-Place due to Covid-19/Coronavirus
Divorce and co-parenting are difficult and heartrending during regular times. Adding Covid-19, closed courts, and closed schools to the mix can make life almost unbearable. The stress level for our clients, especially those who have a high-conflict divorce or strained parenting relationship, is overwhelming. In these uncertain days, we wanted to provide some tips to help our clients.
Most courts in the Bay Area have postponed non-essential court hearings. If you have a matter pending with the court, you can go online or contact your attorney to find out about the status of your case. Many courts, including Contra Costa County and Alameda County, are providing resources for emergency filings and are planning to conduct future hearings telephonically or by video. You can read the latest updates here:
Alternatives to Court
There are other options when the courts are closed or operating with very little capacity. Please feel free to contact our office about alternative dispute resolutions (ADR), including mediation, attorney-assisted negotiation and settlement, or private judging to move your divorce case forward while the Shelter-In-Place Order continues. Many divorce professionals are continuing to resolve cases using phone calls, Zoom, Skype, or other web conferencing technology.
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
The shelter-in-place orders have had the most impact on our most vulnerable. For those of you who are in an abusive living situation or need the protection of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, the courts remain open to issue emergency orders. Please call law enforcement if you are experiencing domestic violence, and if you need an attorney and can contact us safely for advice, please do.
Custody Orders and Parenting Plans
Please, please, please do not use Covid-19 as an excuse not to exchange your children or follow current court orders or an existing parenting plan. Judges, already strained by the additional burdens on the courts, will not look kindly upon parents who use this crisis as an excuse to gain advantage in a custody proceeding. With schools closed and anxiety high, it is in the best interest of your children to be flexible and make decisions in their best interest. Whatever the regular schedule is should be followed unless there is an actual emergency that requires a change, such as the other parent being diagnosed as having coronavirus, or if you are. If you are truly concerned about the other parent’s ability to parent safely during this crisis, we urge you to seek legal advice before making any rash decisions. If your parenting plan or custody orders are ambiguous and you are unsure how to handle the school closure, make every effort to solve the problem with the other parent or seek legal advice. The information provided above does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. We are simply providing the information and resources above for general information and as a resource to navigate a very difficult and trying time. We will also make every effort to update this information in a timely fashion, but guidance from the courts and other professionals is changing constantly. We wish you and your family all the best, and we are here if you need us.