Episode Summary

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, but it has been particularly challenging for divorced parents trying to navigate the complexities of custody arrangements.

In this episode of Protect What’s Yours, Family Law attorneys Matt Marcelino and Jovanna Mastro discuss some of the main concerns parents have regarding custody during COVID-19.

According to Matt and Jovanna, one of the main concerns for parents is keeping their child from being exposed to COVID-19, particularly when they are with the other parent. With this in mind, communication is key to successfully managing court-ordered custody arrangements. While parents still need to follow custody orders, if they are concerned about who their child might potentially come in contact with, they need to talk to the other parent.

In this episode, Matt and Jovanna highlight how COVID-19 is forcing more interaction between divorced parents. Virtual schooling has removed the option for parents to use the school drop-off and pick-up as the official exchange point. Parents need to adapt the way they co-parent by taking into account their child’s needs and creating a new plan for how they will adhere to any court orders in place.

⚖️ Featured Attorney ⚖️

Name: Matt Marcellino

What he does: As a Partner at Marcellino & Tyson, PLLC, Matt carefully guides his clients through the often-frustrating legal process. He has learned that honesty and respect are vital to your representation but also recognizes that some cases, possibly yours, may need an aggressive approach.

Words of wisdom: “If you’re not able to care for yourself, and the child shouldn’t be in your house — that’s a no brainer.”

Connect: LinkedIn

⚖️ Featured Attorney ⚖️

Name: Jovanna Mastro

What she does: As an Associate Attorney at Marcellino & Tyson, PLLC, Jovanna understands there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to divorce and custody, and she values the importance of conflict resolution.

Words of wisdom: “If you haven’t figured it out by now, communication is key to dealing with [COVID-19] because it is unprecedented. And these court orders don’t take into consideration a global pandemic.”

 Connect: LinkedIn

🗝️ Key Points 🗝️

Top takeaways from this episode of Protect What’s Yours

  • Communication is key to successful co-parenting. The last thing some parents want to do is deal with their ex-partner, but COVID-19 has other plans. To keep your kids safe and happy, you need to open the lines of communication and talk about how you will manage court-ordered custody arrangements during the pandemic.
  • You still need a valid reason or an emergency to withhold custody. Simply fearing your child might be exposed to COVID-19 if they go to the other parent’s house is not a valid reason for withholding custody. Unless the court order says otherwise, you still need to follow to the best of your ability, and that includes exchange times.
  • The world might have changed, but the law has not. To make any changes to your custody arrangement because of COVID-19, parents will still need to prove that there has been a substantial change and it’s in the best interest of the child to modify the current arrangement.

💡 Episode Insights 💡

[02:16] Safety concerns need to be COVID-19 related: The attorneys discuss how any concerns for the child’s safety need to be legitimate. Simply not knowing what they are doing while in the care of the other parent isn’t enough if they have been deemed fit through a court order.

[03:35] Use sound reasoning to go about daily life: Parents need to be open about how they are going about their daily life, whether they have the ability to work from home, and going to get tested if they feel unwell.

[13:52] Do what’s best for the kids: If the exchange time or location no longer makes sense, talk to the other parent and agree on a more suitable time or place. If you can both agree to do something different, that works perfectly fine.

[17:20] COVID-19 alone won’t change your custody agreement: If you plan to make any COVID-19 related changes to custody arrangements permanent — think about how it will be received by the court. Everyone is in this pandemic together, and you need more than just COVID-19 as a reason to modify custody arrangements and potentially take time away from the other parent.

About Marcellino & Tyson and Protect What’s Yours

Marcellino & Tyson is a trusted Charlotte, NC-based law firm, providing representation in the practice areas of Family Law, Business & Employment Law, ERISA Disability Law, and Civil Litigation. Our attorneys are highly experienced in ERISA litigation with a successful track record helping clients get the benefits they deserve. We are also known for defending the interests of our clients in family law-related issues.

 The insights and views presented in Protect What’s Yours are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information presented is not a substitute for consulting with an attorney, nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind.

Top quotes from the episode:

[03:17] “I think it comes down to we should probably be the overall theme of this conversation is just communication between the parents say, like, well, what are you doing at your house?”

[06:42] “I’ve run across attorneys in town filing motions, emergency motions, based on COVID twice, and neither of them have succeeded.”

[09:42] “That’s the big question, because virtual school has been very difficult for everyone. You know, the teachers are doing a great job dealing with a very difficult situation but for the parents, but it’s also like how is this going to jive with the custodial arrangement?”

[12:29] “Parents need to take into consideration the needs of their children. I mean, if you have a child that takes an hour to get ready, mentally prepared for school, and get in front of the computer ready to learn, that night before exchanging might be best. Where it’s selfish to say, Oh, I want that a couple extra hours at night and then in the morning, it’s a huge turnover to get them focused and ready for school and dressed.”

[21:56] “Availability of vaccines might be considered a substantial change as it relates to legal custody.”

[25:41] “If you haven’t figured it out by now, I mean, communication is key to dealing with this because it is unprecedented. And these court orders don’t take into consideration a global pandemic.”