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Family Law-Information about Custody and Access During COVID

During the COVID19 pandemic, the Family Court is dealing only with urgent matters. There is a screening process where the triage Justice decides if the case should be dealt with on an urgent basis. This area of law is evolving on an almost daily basis. Some parents are refusing to "allow" parenting time to the other parent citing the stay-at-home directive. Some parentings are fleeing the jurisdiction with the children. There is case law now that states that it is in the best interests of a child to spend time "at home" with each parent, unless there is a specific reason why this would endanger the child. In other words, custody orders and agreements are not automatically suspended by COVID19. Lawyers are able to swear documents remotely. Hearings are being conducted by phone and video conference. In some cases, affidavits do not need to be sworn, if the person is available by telephone. Documents are "filed" by e-mail or similar means and then once the courts re-open, the

 Here is a list of different types of custody arrangements.

  • Joint Custody--Joint  Custody is the type of custody that parents share when they live  together.  If a parent leaves a child with the other parent, his/her  right to custody is suspended but not his/her right to access.   Increasingly, the Courts have been ordering joint custody to both  parents, even if they do not get along.  Typically the child would  reside primarily with one parent and have alternate weekends with the  other parent, who would typically pay child support based on the Child  Support Guidelines.
  • Shared Custody--This  is a type of Joint Custody whereby the parents "share" the child,  typically, but not always on a 50%-50% basis.  Parents often do not pay  child support in this type of arrangement, particularly if they earn  similar incomes.  Typically, if the parents do not earn similar incomes,  the higher paid parent would pay the difference between what each  parent would pay if the child were residing primarily with the other  parent.
  • Split Custody--This  is a type of Custody where the children are "split" with one or more  children living with one parent, and one or more children living with  the other parent.  Typically, you see this situation when the children  are older and have their own preferences regarding which parent the  child would like to reside with.
  • Sole Custody--This  is the traditional type of arrangement where one parent has custody of  the child or children and the other parent has access, typically on  alternate weekends.  Typically, the custodial parent makes most of the  major decisions and is paid child support based on the Child Support  Guidelines.

Custody is an evolving area of Law and increasingly the Courts try to  create a regime where both parents can be actively involved in their  children's lives. It is important to remember that an early  Status Quo can effect the outcome of a custody case.  It is best to  obtain legal advice prior to leaving the family home.