These are such uncertain and challenging times for so many of us, especially those of you who are trying to work and parent your children from home without childcare. For those of you who were considering a separation or divorce before the pandemic, the stress associated with sheltering at home may have pushed you over the edge. Thankfully, you do have options. Below are some tips to help guide you.
- Choose a Collaborative Divorce and Divorce Differently. Maybe the choice you made on marriage isn’t what you had hoped. But now you have a choice in how you divorce. It can be respectful and amicable, whether you cooperate to ensure what happens in your family and finance is best for all. Many divorce professionals are continuing to resolve collaborative cases using Zoom or other web conferencing technology. There is no reason why you cannot start a divorce case or continue working on your divorce just because the courts are temporarily shut down. For more information, visit https://collaborativedivorcecalifornia.com/about-us/why-collaborative/.
- Continued Hearings. Many courts in California have postponed non-essential court hearings. If you have a matter pending with the court, go online or contact your attorney to find out whether your case has been impacted. Do not appear in court if you are sick or symptomatic. Contact your department and ask the clerk for permission to attend your appearance telephonically. If you cannot reach your department’s clerk, try calling the court’s family law clerk for more information. For updates on California court proceedings, visit: https://support.onelegal.com/california-court-updates-covid-19
- Domestic Violence Restraining Orders. For those of you who are in an abusive situation or need the protection of a domestic violence order, know that courts remain open to issue emergency domestic violence restraining orders. Also, law enforcement and emergency services continue to operate. You can call the police if you are experiencing domestic violence.
- Follow your Custody Orders/ Parenting Plans. Do not use COVID-19 as an excuse not to exchange your children or follow a court order or written parenting plan. Judges will not look kindly upon parents who use this crisis as an excuse to withhold their children from the other parent. Moreover, children right now need a stable home life more than ever because they are losing the structure and routine associated with attending school. If your children are accustomed to a regular parenting schedule, this schedule should continue unless there are exigent or emergency circumstances warranting a deviation, such as the other parent is self-isolating or has been diagnosed with COVID-19. If you are truly concerned about the other parent’s ability to parent safely during this crisis, you should promptly seek legal advice. If your parenting plan or custody orders are ambiguous and you are unsure how to handle the school closure, try to work it out with the other parent or seek legal advice if necessary. Try to be flexible and put the needs of your children first.
- The Importance of Self-Care. Please put the oxygen mask on yourself before your child (i.e., the importance of self-care). Now is the time for parents to take care of themselves so that they are able to take care for their children. This includes eating well, getting enough sleep, and getting exercise. Stress can also be managed with the help of a meditation app, such as Calm. It’s also important that we all find opportunities to connect with one another where we can by telephone or Zoom.
- Follow the CDC Guidelines. Please also help each other by following the CDC guidelines and orders of our local and State governments. For more information, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.
Obviously, this is a rapidly changing situation. The information provided above does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Nor is the information contained in this article intended to be exhaustive. Readers of this article should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular family law matter.