From our friends at Gevurtz Menashe
Authored by: Kathryn S. Root, family law attorney, Gevurtz Menashe
While the world continues to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 virus, if you are involved in a family law dispute, you are likely facing unexpected and unprecedented issues. Given the numerous parenting and financial issues triggered by this pandemic, it is important for parents to consult with attorneys who have solid experience advising parents how best to navigate through these issues, including offering information and guidance about finding alternative means to resolve conflicts while the courts operate under severe restrictions.
We Are Working to Stay As Informed As Possible
At Gevurtz Menashe our experienced family law team is working around the clock to stay up to date on recently issued requirements, recommendations, and guidelines governing parenting issues and related financial considerations. We are participating in conversations with judges, mental health professionals, mediators, and other lawyers. We are monitoring advice provided by recognized national associations, such as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), the American Bar Association Family Law Section, and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). In concluding their joint guidelines, the AAML and AFCC offer the following statement of encouragement to people impacted by the pandemic and concurrent parenting conflict: “Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come tighter 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.”
In Oregon, an advisory council appointed by Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Walters worked together to provide guidelines to be used by the court and disseminated to parents who share custody or parenting time, in the midst of this pandemic. Some of those recommendations include:
- Parents are encouraged to follow their parenting plan as closely as possible
- How to facilitate child exchanges during “stay-at-home” orders
- Scheduling make up parenting time if scheduled parenting time is missed to accommodate for Covid-19 concerns
General Advice for Facilitating Parenting Time during Troubling Times
As lawyers with experience supporting families through times of crisis, we believe that although school is not in session, normal routine and schedules should stay intact. These parenting plans are critical for many families as parties work to co-parent in our new “social distancing” world. What is the “right” action to take in terms of co-parenting or facilitating parental contact with children during a crisis such as this? The “right way” to proceed should be guided by what is best for your children. Reasonable parents can and will differ as to what that is for their child, but starting with the presumption that although the other parent might not do it exactly the same as you would does not mean it is wrong. Each parent might think of activities that the child might enjoy doing and offer suggestions to the other parent to do some of those things.
Many Presiding Judges of the Oregon Circuit Courts have now issued a formal Order adopting the Statewide Family Law Advisory Committee’s recommendations as summarized above. If you have any questions about how this action may impact your situation, we can advise you.
If you believe the other parent is unreasonably interfering with the terms of your parenting plan or is taking action which places your children at substantial risk of harm, we can advise you.
Our family law attorneys have many years of experience and can help you make reasonable decisions about when to be creative and flexible with current parenting time orders and making other parenting decisions. While disputes about parenting plan issues may not be decided by a judge in the immediate future, it is important to remember that actions taken today will likely have consequences down the road.
Financial Considerations for Parents
Many families have been and will continue to be impacted by layoffs and other changes in income. In Oregon and Washington, a court has authority to modify child support based on certain changes in circumstances, but only if a legal filing is made with the court and served on the other parent. Although this could be changed in the future due to the ongoing crisis, a parent who is facing these issues should strongly consider consulting with an attorney now about how to proceed.
Many questions will soon arise about how the receipt of benefits available based on the recently enacted federal government stimulus package will impact child support related financial obligations. In addition, with cash payments being made available to most Americans in the near future, how should those benefits be allocated between divorced and separated parents? We will continue to follow these developments closely and be equipped to provide advice and legal representation to our clients.
We Can Help.
If you are interested in learning more, or have questions about your current parenting plan or custody arrangement, we would be happy to help. Although most of us are working remotely, we continue to operate at full capacity and are available to schedule a consultation appointment via telephone or other virtual means. Feel free to contact us online or call our office at 503-227-1515.
- The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
- Seven Guidelines For Parents Who Are Divorced/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During The COVID-19 Pandemic
- 18 Tips On How To Cope With Children During Quarantine
*This is general information only and not meant to provide specific legal advice. *
Authored by Kathryn S. Root, family law attorney, Gevurtz Menashe. Kathy is a member of the Oregon State Bar and focuses her practice exclusively on family law issues such as divorce, parenting and custody issues, child and spousal support. Kathy is also a leading national authority on interstate and international custody disputes and provides legal advice and representation in cases involving interstate and international family law issues.