Our very own attorney Deborah Tate was recently quoted in an article about the new issues facing families and divorce attorneys since the arrival of COVID-19.
“It’s usually something along the lines of ‘I don’t want my kids in the house where there are unvaccinated people coming and going,’ or ‘I don’t want my child to potentially bring the virus home to me,’” Tate says in the article.
Divorced parents are seeking advice from attorneys about modifying existing agreements including the following:
COVID Legal Challenges for Divorced Parents
Divorced parents have always had divergent opinions on any number of matters. They have divorced after all. Those differences are sometimes elevated in the new landscape of COVID-19. Issues of health and liberty have brought some parents back to court. Divorce attorneys must adjust to the changing needs of their clients.
According to the National Institutes of Health, all parents have been found to have higher levels of stress than non-parents during COVID-19. The economy, changes at school, and their own employment status have generated considerable anxiety. NIH says that divorced and separated parents are at especially high risk of high stress because of their co-parenting challenges.
Examples of parenting conflicts in the age of COVID-19 include the following:
- Vaccinations. The debate about vaccinations is fierce in the U.S. Some adults don’t want the vaccines for themselves, much less their children. Other parents advocate for vaccines for adults but not children. Still, others think everyone should be vaccinated as soon as they are approved to get a dose. The intense feelings about vaccines played out on the national stage mirror what happens within some families.
- Visitation. Visitation can be challenging when one parent believes the environment is unsafe at the home of the other parent. If someone with a high risk of infection lives in one of the homes, there are additional concerns. Sometimes visitation is challenging because one home has better internet access for a child’s schoolwork.
- Health Protocols. Like vaccines, the opinions about mask-wearing, social distancing, and testing run the gamut. Some parents believe no specific precautions should be taken to build herd immunity. Some parents think the whole thing is a hoax. There are also parents who are hyper-vigilant about following every recommendation.
The pandemic and parenting continue to evolve and illustrate philosophical differences between exes.
Attorneys Adapt to COVID-19 Changes
The pandemic has created new legal issues for attorneys to work through for divorced and divorcing parents. Divorce attorneys are accustomed to highly emotional cases, but COVID-19 has definitely added a new wrinkle.
For parents who have already divorced, attorneys are renegotiating elements in the divorce agreement. As mentioned earlier, visitation and health-related questions are high on the list. Also being renegotiated are alimony and child support payments. COVID’s economic damage has caused some parents to lose their jobs. In some cases, they are still unemployed or have found work but getting paid less.
Parents in the process of divorce now have questions they never had before the pandemic. They want their agreement to better outline who makes health decisions, how vaccines will be handled, and how the co-parents will work together should schools, businesses, and more be closed down again.
Divorce attorneys have also had to change how they conduct their own business, Tate says in the article. Most hearings are conducted online. Not being in the courtroom has distinct advantages and disadvantages, she says, calling it a “double-edged sword.”
The wait to get on the court docket is sometimes shorter, and that can be good. A downside to web hearings is that more can often be accomplished when physically in court because discussion is easier in person. Improved conversation can lead to quicker, better resolutions.
If you are considering filing for divorce or are having arguments with your ex over COVID or other matters, contact McIntyre Tate, LLP. Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the new era of divorce in a pandemic.
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