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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Probate Courts During COVID-19 Pandemic

Probate Courts During COVID-19 Pandemic

Mendes Weed, LLP is still working tirelessly to make sure our probate clients continue to be taken care of. 

The status of the probate courts in different counties is changing week-to-week, and sometimes day-to-day.  It would be very difficult to summarize these changes down to the minute, especially while assisting our clients remotely, but we want you to be as fully informed as possible. 

We use One Legal for many of our court filings, and they have published California court summary on their website, which we believe may be very helpful to those with current, pending, or upcoming probate matters. 


If you have any questions about your probate, trust administration, estate planning, conservatorship, or trust/estate litigation matter, we hope you will reach out to us at (925) 390-3222.

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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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COVID 19 Resources for Bay Area Superior Courts

COVID 19 Resources for Bay Area Superior Courts

These are links will lead to the most current information provided by the Bay Area Superior courts.

Contra Costa County Superior Court

Alameda County Superior Court

Napa County Superior Court

Solano County Superior Court

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Good News for Social Security Recipients!! – CARES Act in Response to COVID-19

Good News for Social Security Recipients!! – CARES Act in Response to COVID-19

Good News for Social Security Recipients!! – CARES Act in Response to COVID-19

Initially, under the CARES Act, social security recipients were going to have to file income tax returns, even if they normally did not have a tax return filing requirement.

However, after much backlash, this is no longer a requirement.  This is great news for recipients of social security benefits who would not normally need to file an annual income tax return.  It is a difficult time for us all, and requires that an individual who would not normally need to file an income tax return, which is an added burden.

Congress has provided the U.S. Treasury a way to rely on Form 1099-SSA instead of a Form 1040 in order to issue stimulus checks.  You can find this updated information on the IRS website here.  The IRS website states,

“Since the IRS would not have information regarding any dependents for these people, each person would receive $1,200 per person, without the additional amount for any dependents at this time.”

This is great news for many seniors, many veterans, and many disabled individuals who may have been previously concerned about the added burden of needing to file an income tax return.


If you have any questions about this, other tax law matters, probate, conservatorships, estate planning, divorce, civil litigation, or unlawful detainers, we hope you will contact Mendes Weed, LLP, today.  We are here to help you at this difficult time.  Just call (925) 390-3222.

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