Covid-19, coronavirus, custody, children and complaining all start with the letter “C”:
“It’s not my day.”
“It’s your day.”
“It’s your weekend.”
“It’s not my weekend.”
“Bring them back.”
“Pick them up.”
Whatever the pronouncement, what do you do when your ex’s response is “coronavirus,” the code word for “I don’t care”?
Do you take matters into your own hands without further communication, like unilaterally deciding to head right over to pick the children up or drop them off? Do you send a scathing e-mail and attach a copy of your custody agreement or judgment of divorce?
Consider for a moment if that will help.
For now, you cannot seek court intervention. Covid-19 has shut down the courts except for emergencies. No matter how you see it, your ex flouting coronavirus as an excuse to ignore your custodial arrangement is unlikely to be an emergency. So, what do you do when direct communication with your ex fails?
Think back to that plague of a time when you were negotiating your custody agreement or reading the decision after trial and heed the “best interest” of the children. Coronavirus might be a valid excuse if one parent can better comply with CDC guidelines and/or meet home schooling requirements. A backyard in a remote suburb might provide better Covid-19 protection than a cramped New York City apartment. Grandparents should be protected from children who may be asymptomatic Covid-19 carriers.
So, before acting, rethink what is best for your children, yourself, your extended family and society as a whole. Will temporarily agreeing to adjust your formal custodial arrangement serve the best interest of the children? Will reason, cooperation and deference facilitate agreement between you and your ex during this Covid-19 crisis. Can summer vacation periods be modified and/or future weekend or holiday access extended to “make up” for lost time?
Certainly, police are available if you believe your children are being placed in danger. Remember, though, that every call puts the police, and all those with whom they have contact, at increased risk for exposure. Be wary of aggravating anxiety in your children because coronavirus is likely already testing them enough. They should not be put in the middle or led to feel they are the cause of discord between you and your ex.
Your attorney can reach out to your ex’s attorney and advocate why the custodial arrangement is or is not in the best interest of the children during this coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps your point of view will prevail. Even if ignored, you will have memorialized your attempt to consider the effect of unprecedented factors should the matter end up before a court once the Covid-19 cloud has cleared. Any perceived misconduct can be addressed once courts reopen.
If you do not have in person contact with your children, make every attempt to maintain face to face contact with them through Facetime or the like, and encourage your children to freely express themselves. Try to see this time as an opportunity for your children to learn how to face the unexpected constructively. Most of all, remember that as with all things custodial, it is about your children, not you.
Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP represents New York clients in custodial matters. To reserve a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call 212-867-9123 or reach out to us through our contact form today. We maintain offices on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, in White Plains, and in Hackensack, NJ.
Ellen Werfel Martineau is a partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP. Ms. Werfel Martineau is an experienced, tenacious and compassionate family law attorney. Read more about Ellen Werfel Martineau.