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Addressing COVID-19 Head On

First, we hope you and your loved ones are safe.

On our end, we moved staff off-site, and set up remote operations.

Given that our files are on a cloud-based, HIPPA compliant server, and we use IP phones, little has changed. The phones ring where the employees are and mail has been re-routed to staff who scan documents off-site. That said, everything has changed. The things we took for granted are in question, and the primary focus is safety. As to that issue: Here is a link to a joint statement issued by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, with their collective recommendations for visitation in the COVID world. I have gotten a lot of calls from lawyers and clients about visitation and COVID, and suggest the following:

1. If you can agree on parity between the two homes, life becomes easier on everyone. There is enough stress going on without worrying about whether one parent is playing fast and loose with seclusion recommendations, thereby defeating the efforts of the other parent, for whom elders are part of the parenting plan. If you can get on the same page, document it. A sample ‘shelter in place’ order (which we entered on March 19, ahead of the shut downs) is available here.

2. In that same spirit, if you can get on the same page about anything relating to the children, stick with it, and tweak it by agreement when the situation shifts. We have found that some of the most contentious cases have become less so, because the parents realized this is not the time for drama, and pulled together, after years of pulling apart. That’s great for them and the kids and obviates ’emergency’ hearings.

3. Remember that the equation now involves others. If one parent is keeping the kids out of contact with the outside world, and the other parent has to go to work in a high-risk environment (for instance a hospital), regular visitation will destroy the safety that the efforts of the other parent has put in place. One parent may have live-in elders, and they are not irrelevant to the equation. Cookie-cutter answers are not likely to solve these problems, but as suggested above, there has never been a better time to put aside differences and work collaboratively toward something that works for the entire family, however complicated that family structure has become.

We are here, and have been dealing with emergency matters nearly daily since March 19, 2020. Our step one, however, is to try to deescalate the crises. If you need help, reach out. SCHEDULE YOUR CONSULTATION

TJC • ESQ is now a part of Burns & Levinson, one of the largest and most respected family law firms in the nation. Learn more.

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