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Dealing with custody issues during a national emergency

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The COVID-19 virus has developed into a national emergency unlike anything the nation has experienced in generations, and it’s upending the normal way of life for almost everyone.

It’s also causing some unexpected problems for divorced parents — specifically, those whose children were away with their other parent during spring break. Now that spring break has been extended beyond the usual week-long duration and could go on indefinitely, some parents are unsure about what’s supposed to happen next. The parent with primary physical custody usually wants the child returned at the expected time — regardless of the extenuating circumstances related to the virus.

Not all of the parents who have custody of their children for spring break are willing to be compliant. Some may try to rely on the technicality that “spring break was extended” to extend their parenting time — either out of genuine desire to have more time with their kids or out of a desire to simply frustrate and upset the other parent.

That could backfire spectacularly. Even as the courts acknowledge the need for guidance and some have taken steps to issue it, attorneys are reminding parents that the failure to comply with a court-ordered parenting and custody plan could face fines, additional attorney fees (including their ex-spouse’s) and up to six months in jail.

Plus, it’s really just not a good idea to stomp on the agreement you have with your child’s other parent. That could easily lead to problems later if your custody issues aren’t settled, since judges tend to view deliberate violations of their orders very negatively. Alternatively, your ex-spouse may end up taking you back to court to request a modification of your existing orders because you’re not trustworthy.

Don’t make mistakes with your custody orders. If you’re uncertain about your child custody rights, ask an attorney for guidance before you make any decisions.

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