Many custody cases being complicated by some schools not reopening

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August is almost always a tough month for parties going through divorce or custody disputes. In many cases, parties have trouble agreeing on where the children will go to school. The parties might also have trouble agreeing on who is going to pay the cost of private school if the children do not go to public school.

Prior to school beginning in August, many parties, unfortunately, end up in court on motions to modify or motions for contempt as it relates to these kinds of school issues. The litigation often involves where the children will go to school and who will be paying.

Many custody schedules have it setup where custody exchange revolves around the beginning and ending of school days. In other words, many parents drop off the children at school. The other parent then often picks up the kids after school is over.

With COVID-19, many school districts will not be opening up this Fall in a traditional sense. Instead, many school districts are going to be opening virtually. By opening virtually, many parents will now have to co-parent as it relates to essentially homeschooling their kids through a virtual program.

Many school districts are making this decision due to safety reasons. With the spread of COVID-19, many school districts are concerned that students and teachers can quickly spread the virus.

In some cases, the parties will now end up having more face-to-face encounters where they are exchanging the children because it cannot take place at school. For many parties, custody exchanges can be a source of dispute. One party could be late for an exchange. Sometimes, somebody does not show up at all. In other cases, parties might engage in verbal discourse that is not productive.

As it relates to virtual schooling, one parent may have a concern that the other parent is not equipped or capable of handling virtual schooling during their custody time. Some parents might also be unable to do virtual schooling because they have to work. As a result, it might be that the children have to go with the other parent or the parties might need a tutor or childcare to assist with schooling.

In other situations, one party might wish to send the children to a private school that is going to be open versus leaving them in the public school, which will not be open. In some cases, parties might be able to agree. In other cases, it is foreseeable that the parties might not be able to agree.

For many parties, they might consider engaging in mediation or collaborative law to attempt to resolve these disputes. For others, they may end up having to file a motion to modify to change the existing custody schedule because no agreement can be reached.

COVID-19 has been challenging on many levels. But the impact on custody cases with many schools not reopening is, unfortunately, going to be seen for many involved in the family court.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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