Custody and Visitation in a COVID-19 World

Custody and Visitation in a COVID-19 World

Even in good times, and times of certainty, co-parenting, custody and visitation can be challenging, and often adversarial.  Excuses are commonly made to refuse custodial time and visitation (I hear them from clients, opposing parties, and even attorneys).  Now in the COVID-19 world, there now appears to be a very strong basis for justifying the refusal of custody and timeshare…But is there really?

In response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s strict shelter-in-place order, people have freely modified their custody and parenting time orders for numerous reasons, e.g., geographic distance between homes, in and out of county; a member of a parent’s household is a first responder or frontline person and both parents agree not to take the risk; a member of a parent’s household is more vulnerable to the virus because of underlying medical conditions, or someone has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Also in response to Governor Newsom’s orders, parents/caretakers are acting unilaterally and violating court orders, making efforts to justify disobeying the Court’s order by claiming it is in their child(ren)’s best interest and leaving the other parent needing the assistance of a Court which is running at limited capacity.  Most courts are essentially closed for all routine matters and are only handling emergencies; some courts are not even prepared to handle emergency matters.

The courts across the San Francisco Bay Area are fairly unified in their position that COVID-19 is not an excuse to unilaterally modify custody or justify withholding children from court-ordered timeshare and visitation.  I have heard from colleagues, as well as my own experience, that the Courts are intolerant of parents who use “The Rona” to prevent parents from exercising their ordered timeshare.  The Courts have stated that COVID-19 is not, of itself, grounds to withhold children from court-ordered visitation, and frankly, doing so may be playing with fire; it may be viewed by the Courts as a reason to reduce or eliminate the “offending parent’s” timeshare.

These times are unprecedented, and there are constant conflicting messages, from the media, the public, the Courts, counsel, etc.  Who do you listen to?  What do you do?  You listen to your attorney (if you have one), and you follow the direction of your order.  A modification of child custody, even on an emergency basis, is always an option, and the Courts are engaging in emergency hearings at this time.

Notwithstanding court orders, parents may voluntarily modify their custody orders, either permanently, or temporarily, by mutual agreement.  The key words being mutual and agreement.  Both parents must agree to the medication, and as an attorney who practices in this area, I would strongly advise these agreements are, at a minimum, memorialized in email format, and even better, by legal Stipulation and Order, protecting both parents’ rights under the modification.

Also, consider, if making a modification to a child custody order,

  • how long does the modification need to be in place,
  • should there be a self-executing provision, conditional upon the lifting or relaxing of the Shelter-in-Place which changes the agreement again, or returns the agreement to the original agreement,
  • are provisions necessary for childcare modifications,
  • changes or agreements required to facilitate distance learning.

There is a myriad of issues to consider, and it is critical that they are outlined, and drafted thoroughly if they are to be effectively enforced.

If you have questions or concerns about a child custody order or informal agreement, we are here to help. Safeguard yourself, and your children, by ensuring your rights as a parent are protected.

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How Social Distancing and COVID-19 Related Employment Changes Impact Your Child Support and Childcare Related Issues

How Social Distancing and COVID-19 Related Employment Changes Impact Your Child Support and Childcare Related Issues

The financial crisis experienced by many families in America is extreme-shut-downs, limited services, and even law firms, are suffering and unable to maintain their business infrastructure and revenue.  Layoffs, if they have not happened yet, are all but promised.  At this time, the shelter-in-place is extended almost weekly, and no one truly knows when, of even if, life will return to what we once knew.

Those with child support or modifiable spousal support obligations are surely concerned about paying bills while also obeying court orders for support payments. Adding fuel to the fire, Contra Costa County, as well as many Bay Area Counties, have moved into hearing only “emergency” requests, and the definition of “emergency” is not exactly clear.

Meanwhile, California has implemented some of the strictest shelter in place regulations in the nation-schools and most daycares are closed, and adequate childcare can be an issue, especially for essential workers.  The luxury of having family at home to assist with childcare, home schooling, etc., is not something everyone enjoys. So what next?

Should you file a Request for Order to Modify Support?

The first stop is to review the local rules for the county your case is in, or in the county which would have jurisdiction over your case.  Most, if not all, counties have implemented emergency COVID-19 local rules.  You may reference COVID-19 resources on our website, www.mwlawca.com, or connect with us on Facebook, to review your county’s local rules.  If support motions are permitted, and mostly they are, you may file for a modification; however, a court date may not be offered until your courthouse reopens for hearings, or until your county has a virtual hearing system in place.

California law permits the Court to have authority (often referred to as jurisdiction) to make support orders retroactively to the date the motion was filed. If you are the parent obligated to pay support (the payor), and you have a substantial change in circumstances (job loss, hour or salary reductions, etc.) you may file a Request for Order requesting a modification of the required support payment, while also asking for the Court to make the new order retroactive to the date the motion was filed.  If you anticipate a substantial change in circumstances, you may draft your Request for Order in advance, so it is prepared and ready for filing if/when your income change occurs.  This will help prevent any delay which can be caused by the drafting time.  Job loss, reduction of hours or salary, would unquestionably be a basis to modify child support, especially if it was not due to any act by the payor.  However, remember, a motion to modify support doesn’t excuse non-payment or otherwise order support while you await new orders.

On balance, if your childcare costs have increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Request for Order is appropriate as well. Due to the court closures and the hearings on emergency matters, your case may not be heard quickly, but you will have preserved the retroactivity rights with the timely filing of your Request for Order.  Remember, most orders are written with an equal responsibility to both parents to pay for childcare costs.  Times are uncertain and unclear at this time.  It is critical that you understand your court orders, and you act on them timely and appropriately. If you need further assistance in review, understanding, modifying or enforcing your court order, we can help.  Stay healthy!

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Walnut Creek Main Office

1990 N. California BLVd.
Suite 1020
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

(925) 390-3222

San Francisco Office

95 Third Street
2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

(628) 216-5558

Oakland Office

66 Franklin Street
Suite 300
Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 822-2770

San Jose Office

3031 Tisch Way
110 Plaza West
San Jose, CA 94607

(408) 707-1667

To Exchange or Not To Exchange – That is the Question

To Exchange or Not To Exchange – That is the Question

To Exchange or Not To Exchange – That is the Question

For those of you wondering whether to follow your child custody/visitation orders or the government’s latest shelter in place orders, you are not alone. To provide parents some clarity in the midst of confusion, the California Superior Courts have some recommendations for you to follow while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Here is what you need to know:

  • COVID-10 is NOT a reason, on its own, to deny the other parent parenting time. Absent other court orders to the contrary, parents are considered fit to care for their children and properly follow local government directives regarding social distancing and sanitation-related measures.
  • Travel: The Governor has issued executive orders that restrict non-essential travel. Custody exchanges are considered essential travel and are therefore not prohibited. Unless otherwise directed by the Governor or other executive order, the parties should continue to follow their parenting plan as written while such orders are in effect. If you feel more comfortable traveling with a copy of your custody order, that is a fine idea.
  • Exchanges: during the exchange of children, all parties should follow the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for limiting the spread of the virus. If you typically exchange your children at a very crowded place, this may mean choosing an alternate location that has fewer people so that you can comply with the current social distancing requirements. Try to limit how much you touch during the exchanges and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after each.
  • Supervised Parenting Time: If parenting time is ordered to be supervised, and the supervisor is unavailable due to COVID-19-related issues or government orders, the parties should work collaboratively to ensure parenting time continues to occur in a manner that promotes their children’s safety and well-being, such as finding an alternative supervisor. If that is not possible, then the parenting time should be conducted virtually via videoconferencing or by telephone.
  • Parenting Time in Public Places: If the parenting plan states that parenting time will occur in a public place, parenting time should continue at locations that are permitted under the latest health and safety guidelines for the state, such as a large park or nature hike. Try to avoid places where children can touch objects that have been touched by others, like play structures. If this is not possible, then parenting time should be conducted virtually via teleconferencing or by telephone.
  • Makeup Parenting Time: If parents lose parenting time as a result of COVID-19-related issues or government orders, the parents are encouraged to work collaboratively to schedule makeup parenting time.

At this time, most California Superior Courts in the Bay Area are closed through April 30. As a result of these extended closures, all the hearings that were initially set to be heard between mid-March and April 30 will be reset to be heard upon the court’s re-opening, in addition to those already set. This means that any non-emergency requests filed with the courts will likely generate a court date 2-3 months out. Therefore, parties should aim to settle non-emergency custody disputes informally. If you need assistance reaching agreements with a non-compliant party, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The courts are aware that some parties may nevertheless need the Court’s speedier assistance in these times. If you are unable to see your child(ren) as a result of the other parent’s non-compliance with your custody orders, you may be able to seek an Emergency Order from the Court. If you think this may be your situation, please reach out to us, and we can discuss your options with you.

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Christina Weed - Taxation Law Specialist
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Walnut Creek Main Office

1990 N. California BLVd.
Suite 1020
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

(925) 390-3222

San Francisco Office

95 Third Street
2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

(628) 216-5558

Oakland Office

66 Franklin Street
Suite 300
Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 822-2770

San Jose Office

3031 Tisch Way
110 Plaza West
San Jose, CA 94607

(408) 707-1667

Child Custody and Visitation – Spring Custodial Schedule

Child Custody and Visitation – Spring Custodial Schedule

https://youtu.be/VBSv5EVe4XY

Spring is right around the corner and summer is not far behind that. It’s not too late to think about who will have the kids during these vacation periods.

Avoiding conflict in front of the children is very important, so you need to plan ahead. Lisa and Christina talk about how to go about dealing with these child custody and visitation issues.

 

Disclaimer: The tips and materials provided on this page are for informational purposes only, offered as public service. No information on this website should be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for legal advice. For legal advice, you should contact an attorney directly.

SuperLawyers-RisingStars
Best of the East Bay Attorneys
Lisa Janine MendesReviewsout of 5 reviews
Walnut Creek Chanber of Commerce logo
Christina Weed - Taxation Law Specialist
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Walnut Creek Main Office

1990 N. California BLVd.
Suite 1020
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

(925) 390-3222

San Francisco Office

95 Third Street
2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

(628) 216-5558

Oakland Office

66 Franklin Street
Suite 300
Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 822-2770

San Jose Office

3031 Tisch Way
110 Plaza West
San Jose, CA 94607

(408) 707-1667

How to Survive Holiday Custody Schedule Planning & Keeping Your Children’s Best Interest at Heart

How to Survive Holiday Custody Schedule Planning & Keeping Your Children’s Best Interest at Heart

The holidays are a very difficult time for many, especially if you are going through or have recently gone through a divorce. Meal planning, holiday festivities, and visits from family and friends add to the challenges of everyday life.

Reduce the stress on you, your child/ children, and your relationship with your partner during this time of year by creating a clear and specific custody arrangement.

A lawyer who specializes in child custody arrangements can help you create a fair and equitable holiday or birthday schedule. It is never too late to plan one, and the results of having one may offer you peace of mind and the ability to plan in advance.

Consider These Factors when Drawing Up a Holiday Custody Arrangement

  • Keep a calendar of holiday schedules to keep everyone on track.
  • Consider dividing school vacations and alternating years for a clear custody routine. On even-numbered years, one parent gets custody of the children for vacation; on odd-numbered years, custody switches to the other parent.
  • Write specific times and locations for pick up and drop off.
  • Plan more vacation time during holidays and summer for the parent who does not have primary custody.
  • Create a colorful calendar for your child/children so they know the schedule. Consider marking the days with one parent in one color and the days with the other parent in another color.
  • Consult a family law attorney to make sure all wording is clear, explicit, and legally binding.

At the end of the day, your decisions on custody should be based on the decision that is best for your child/children. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of such a huge change in family life but every decision should be based on creating the most stable and healthy environment for your offspring.

Consult Mendes Weed, LLP for Holiday Schedule Assistance

Mendes Weed, LLP has experience in child custody matters and can help ensure that your parental rights are protected and respected. If you would like more information about creating or editing a holiday custody arrangement, contact us.

Disclaimer: The tips and materials provided in this email are for informational purposes only, offered as public service. No information in this email should be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for legal advice. For legal advice, you should contact an attorney directly.

SuperLawyers-RisingStars
Best of the East Bay Attorneys
Lisa Janine MendesReviewsout of 5 reviews
Walnut Creek Chanber of Commerce logo
Christina Weed - Taxation Law Specialist
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Walnut Creek Main Office

1990 N. California BLVd.
Suite 1020
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

(925) 390-3222

San Francisco Office

95 Third Street
2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

(628) 216-5558

Oakland Office

66 Franklin Street
Suite 300
Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 822-2770

San Jose Office

3031 Tisch Way
110 Plaza West
San Jose, CA 94607

(408) 707-1667

Preparing for Life After Divorce

Preparing for Life After Divorce

Divorce is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.  Whether you wanted the marriage to end or not, you are most likely going to experience an entire gamut of emotions. The thought of ending ties with someone you thought you were going to spend your life with is something with which you must come to terms.

Divorce Considerations with Children

If you and your ex-partner have children, you may undergo an entire new set of feelings and emotions. Whether you have sole or split custody, being a single parent is stressful, taxing, and complex. The sooner you prepare yourself for life after divorce, the better you and your children will be.

Put Yourself First

There is a popular saying, “If Momma ain’t happy, no one is happy.” The same holds true for dads. Before you can successfully take care of someone else, you need to take care of yourself first. We are useless in the workplace or to our family if we are not taking care of ourselves.

Suggestions for Taking Care of Yourself

The first steps to preparing a “Post-Divorce You” is to come to terms with the divorce.  Realize you will have your good days and your bad days, and allow yourself plenty of time to grieve. At the same time, work on yourself in these positive ways:

  • Seek therapy for your mental well-being.
  • Stick to a regular sleep regime and get at least 8 hours of rest.
  • Eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and protein.
  • Start or continue an exercise routine.
  • Make time for friends.
  • Pick up a new hobby or join a new club.
  • Surround yourself with positive support role models.
  • Focus on the positive, find something to be grateful for each day.

Take Care of the Kids

Your kids are counting on you, and you need to be a strong support model to take care of them. Depending on the ages of your children as well as other factors, some kids handle divorce better than others. Here are some ways you can help your children cope with divorce:

  • Talk to them in age-appropriate wording.
  • Share only necessary details.
  • Listen to their concerns and address them without providing false hope.
  • Avoid talking badly about their other parent.
  • Continually remind them how much you love them.
  • Offer them counseling or someone neutral to engage with.
  • Start new traditions.

Divorce is not the End

When you come to peace, you will realize that divorce is not the end; it was a chapter in your life and now you have a second chance to live a different life. Make the best of this chance by taking time for yourself and working on things or choosing new activities you never had the chance to do before.

Choosing a Divorce Lawyer

If you have a great divorce lawyer, he or she has your best interests in mind.  When you are going through a divorce, or if you have already signed papers, you want to know your divorce attorney is on your side.

If you need representation for your divorce, are already divorced and need a new divorce lawyer, or have questions, Mendes Weed, LLP is here to help.

We have offices in Walnut Creek, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

Call us at (925) 390-3222 or contact us on our website.

SuperLawyers-RisingStars
Best of the East Bay Attorneys
Lisa Janine MendesReviewsout of 5 reviews
Walnut Creek Chanber of Commerce logo
Christina Weed - Taxation Law Specialist
lawyers of distinction badge 2020

Walnut Creek Main Office

1990 N. California BLVd.
Suite 1020
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

(925) 390-3222

San Francisco Office

95 Third Street
2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

(628) 216-5558

Oakland Office

66 Franklin Street
Suite 300
Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 822-2770

San Jose Office

3031 Tisch Way
110 Plaza West
San Jose, CA 94607

(408) 707-1667