The courts understand that not everyone who has children is married. If there is no marriage, the Courts will refrain from assisting the parties in dividing up their personal property and debts as these matters are handled within an "Action for Divorce", and without that marital status the parties do not qualify for the Court's assistance. (You may be able to work these issues out through the use of "mediation" or another forum.) The Family Court's focus is to assure that the children are properly cared for by the parents. They strive, at all times, to act in what they believe to be in the best interest of the children.
Leaders from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and AFCC have released guidelines for co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Divorce/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the COVID19 Pandemic
From the leaders of groups that deal with families in crisis:
Susan Myres, President of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML)
Dr. Matt Sullivan, President of Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
Annette Burns, AAML and Former President of AFCC
Yasmine Mehmet, AAML
Kim Bonuomo, AAML
Nancy Kellman, AAML
Dr. Leslie Drozd, AFCC
Dr. Robin Deutsch, AFCC
Jill Peña, Executive Director of AAML
Peter Salem, Executive Director of AFCC
1. BE HEALTHY.
Comply with all CDC and local and state guidelines and model good behavior for your children with intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. This also means BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumor mill on social media.
2. BE MINDFUL.
Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal in time. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on 24/7, for instance. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.
3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and custody agreements.
As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The custody agreement or court order exists to prevent endless haggling over the details of timesharing. In some jurisdictions, there are even standing orders mandating that, if schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as though school was still in session.
4. BE CREATIVE.
At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to fly and vacation attractions such as amusement parks, museums, and entertainment venues are closing all over the US and the world. In addition, some parents will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games and FaceTime or Skype.
5. BE TRANSPARENT.
Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Certainly, both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.
6. BE GENEROUS.
Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.
7. BE UNDERSTANDING.
There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many, many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something, even if it can’t be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.
Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It’s important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep their child safe.
The guidelines listed above are just guidelines and each individual's situation varies. Feel free to contact us to discuss your unique situation.
Custody cases tend to be emotionally charged and good counsel will help you navigate the intricacies of doing what is in the best interest of the children without losing sight of the pressures placed upon you as the parent. Our attorneys are well versed in all of the nuances required in handling family and custody matters in New York and New Jersey, whether or not you were married to your partner.
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If you are seeking to hire independent counsel, to protect your interests in New York or New Jersey, you can "Request An Appointment" by clicking above or by contacting Glenn P. Milgraum, Esq. at 973-812-8660 or by email at: Disputelaw@aol.com.
We generally cover matters in the following counties:
In New Jersey: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Union, and other surrounding counties.
In New York: Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), Monroe, Nassau, New York (Manhattan), Orange, Richmond (Staten Island), Suffolk, Queens, Westchester, and other surrounding counties.