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N. Lawrence Hudspeth III, Attorney at Law
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COVID-19 Divorce FAQs
Can the Coronavirus Affect Custodial Rights? How Divorces and Parenting Time May Be Impacted
Generally speaking, Custodial rights and responsibilities may not necessarily be affected by the pandemic. This is because custodial orders still take effect despite the stay at home orders and failure to comply may lead to liability for contempt of court. However, some minor readjustments may have to be made depending on the facts of your case. Divorce parents are encouraged to exercise extreme caution and common sense to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the child. There may be a need for divorced parents to assess their exposures and other legitimate issues that may arise from the nature of the virus.
How to Co-parent During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Maintaining a relationship with the child is very important during this period. Thus, co-parents should work together to determine the best communication channel while the lockdown persists. We encourage the adoption of Zoom meetings and phone calls to facilitate interaction while socially distanced. 
There will be a need for a lot of patience to successfully navigate the new normal we have all found ourselves. Offer grace to your co-parent as much as possible and be willing to give concessions in the best interest of the child. 

Yes, you can expect a divorce rate to rise after the coronavirus. This is due to a combination of factors. First is that pending divorce cases that had to be paused due to the lockdown of public institutions contribute to the pile to be sorted after the pandemic. Aside from that, frustration, stress, and financial constraints arising from forced confinements may cause relationships to crash leading to more divorce filings. Reports from China where the pandemic first began also suggests a 25% increase in divorce filings and an overwhelming of the system. While all these signs suggest a possible rise in divorce rates, spending more time together could also help mend some broken relationships. 
Can I Expect Divorce Rates to Rise After Coronavirus?
Will I be Able to Meet With my Divorce Attorney During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Hundreds of pending divorce cases have been left on hold due to the lockdown restrictions. If your divorce process has already commenced, you may have to wait until the lockdown is listed to continue. Family court and custody orders have been moving slowly due to the pandemic. 

If you are looking to file a fresh divorce proceeding, it is still possible. NC family court administration is still open irrespective of the lockdown so you can file and have your questions answered. Filing early puts you at an advantage of getting heard early. Presently, hearings are limited to essential cases this there may have to be some factual considerations on your case before it proceeds. Speak to an attorney for further information on this. 

Can I Proceed With Divorce if a Stay at Home Order is in Effect?
Although the North Carolina Stay at home order generally restricts movement in the state, an exception is made for travels between residences for custody exchanges in pursuance of a court order. Safety measures should be taken to avoid putting the child at risk of contracting the virus. However, parents have the option of making temporary adjustments and alterations to the custody order to minimize the child’s exposure to the virus. If you are considering taking this route, it is advised to ensure that it is appropriately documented for proof should any dispute arise in the future.
Should my Custody Order be Temporarily Adjusted During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
North Carolina lawfirms are still having limited physical meetings during this coronavirus pandemic. Thus, it may be possible to meet with your divorce attorney physically. However, virtual meetings are encouraged for safety reasons. You can schedule a video conference with your divorce attorney or have correspondences via mail. Many Law firms now have live chat features and some have been able to adjust their culture to allow for in-house visits where possible to save you the stress and risk of moving around in public. 
Facing Child Custody Concerns During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Movement restrictions and safety concerns posed by the pandemic has occasioned frustration in the exercise of custodial rights and responsibilities.Custodial orders of court and respective custodial schedules are to be complied with. However, compromise may be reached with the other partner on certain aspects of the custodial order and parenting schedule to ensure the child’s health, welfare, and safety. We recommend keeping communication lines open with the child irrespective of physical distance through telephones and video conferencing applications.
Exercising custodial rights and responsibilities across state lines has been frustrated by the pandemic and movement restrictions. The situation is largely nebulous and deciding on the appropriate course of action may require consulting with a competent family law attorney. However, generally speaking, custodial orders are still in effect, and compliance is encouraged. We would also advise that socially distanced adopt applications like Facetime and Zoom to facilitate communication with the kids while the pandemic subsists. You can also make arrangements with the out of state parent to make up for lost time with the kid after the movement restrictions are lifted. 
What If the Other Parent Is in Another State? Can I Still Exercise Time with the Kids?
If there is a subsisting custody order, you are advised to continue compliance with the order. In situations like this where the health and safety of the minor are at risk, you may have to initiate conversations on possible adjustments in the interest of the child. That may be very difficult to navigate as parties must be careful to avoid being held in contempt. If the co-parent is unwilling or unyielding, you may speak with a competent NC family law attorney to understand your rights and options available to you. Depending on the facts of your case, an emergency petition may be filed at the court. 
How Can I Keep My Child Safer With a Co-Parent in the Medical Field During COVID-19?
Strictly speaking, a lockdown does not affect your custody or possession schedule. You are required to continue complying with the custodial order of the court despite the stay at home order. While it may be of inconvenience you, to say the least, you must comply to prevent being liable for contempt of court. However, some minor details like custody exchange points may have to reviewbilaterally especially in cases where the safety of the child may be prejudiced or public places currently on lockdown. Parents are also encouraged to apply common sense and exercise extreme caution while making decisions bordering on the health and safety of the child. 
Does a Lockdown or Stay-At-Home Order Affect My Custody/Possession Schedule?
N. Lawrence Hudspeth III, Attorney at Law ® 814 New Bridge Street, PO Box 910, Jacksonville, NC 28541-0910

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