Coronavirus (COVID-19) is now affecting the daily lives of families across the country in unprecedented ways, and it is inevitable that some of these effects can affect your marriage dissolution. If you have underage children, you might immediately wonder how the coronavirus is affecting your custody plan.
What happens if my child’s school is closed?
Schools across the state have begun mandatory closings in response to the coronavirus. Beginning March 16, 2020, all school districts in Sacramento County will be closed to students for up to three weeks. Other school districts have or are in the process of implementing similar plans. If you have minor children and are getting divorced, or if you have a custody decision under a previous petition for dissolution, you need to review your custody decision to determine parental leave during school closings. You will also need to look at the child care provisions in your custody decision as you may now face unexpected child care needs. For example, does your order require one parent to have the right of first refusal if the other parent requires childcare for more than eight hours?
Ultimately, communication is the best you can do right now to respond to the ever-changing school and childcare landscape resulting from the coronavirus outbreak. Whenever possible, you should communicate directly with your child’s other parent and try to reach an agreement on how to deal with changes in childcare during these unexpected school closings. Of course, your situation may not be suitable for direct communication with the other parent. If so, it is important that you contact your attorney as soon as possible so that your attorney can help resolve any issues related to the school closure.
What if I, my child, or the other parent of my child get sick or are quarantined?
Now is the time, hopefully while you are healthy, to think about what will happen if you, your child, or your child’s other parents get sick or have to quarantine yourself. Again, the first step is to review your existing custody decision as it is generally aimed at what will happen if one or both parents are sick and unable to look after the child. This is an unprecedented set of circumstances. Even if your order addresses such a situation, it is still a good idea to reach out to your child’s other parent (either directly or through the parties’ lawyers) to make sure they are all on the same page about what will happen if someone gets sick or needs to be quarantined.
It is possible that your custody decision does not cover what would happen if one or both parents were unable to care for the child (either due to quarantine or illness). If so, you should contact your child’s other parent immediately – either directly or through lawyers – to come up with a plan.
It would also be a good idea to communicate with your child’s other parent and discuss how to react if your child becomes sick. For example, you should discuss which parent would stay home with the child in case the child is sick and / or needs to be quarantined. Do you follow the regular parenting schedule even if the child is sick? Communication is key to hopefully avoiding unnecessary conflict at an already stressful time for everyone.
Finally, if possible, prepare to be flexible.