The Coronavirus and Its Effect on Family Law

The coronavirus has caused a shut down of every aspect of life in California, including families and the law.  Many people have lost their jobs or are afraid to share custody of their children because of the possibility of exposure to the virus.  The court system has virtually shut down, so maneuvering within the legal system has had to change as well.

Here are some common questions and answers regarding support, co-parenting and custody and visitation issues.

I’ve lost my job and I can’t pay my child support.  How can I get the amount reduced if the courts are closed?

The courts are not in session right now, but you can still file for a modification.  When the courts reopen, your request will be heard and if a modification is granted, it will be back-dated to the date of filing.

I’ve lost my job and I need more child support (or spousal support) to compensate for my lost income.  How can I get an increase in support if the courts aren’t open?

You will not be able to get help from the courts while they are closed, but you can file a request for modification of support.  When the courts reopen, your request for more support can be back-dated to the date of filing.  That’s why it’s imperative to file as soon as possible.

My ex-spouse and I share custody of our children.  With the coronavirus lockdown, I’m afraid to send my children to another place where they could be infected.  Can I disallow my ex-spouse’s time with the children to protect them?

Child custody and visitation orders remain in effect during this lockdown, and you cannot legally prevent your ex from seeing the children simply because you fear exposure.

My ex-spouse will not allow me to see our children because of the lockdown even though we have court-ordered custody arrangement.  He/she says that the children need to stay where they are to be protected.  Can she do that legally?

No, child custody/visitation orders remain in effect during this lockdown.  Try to reason with your ex.  If you’ve had this arrangement for long period of time, then he/she has to know you will take excellent care of your children, like you’ve always done.  If reasoning doesn’t work, you can contact the police, but you may not get immediate help.  Lastly, you can file Request for Order with the court, and when the court reopens, your ex can be found in contempt of court.

Someone in my ex-spouse’s house has the coronavirus.  Can I prevent my ex from seeing the kids so they’re not exposed?

In this situation, exposing children to a deadly virus would not be in the child’s best interest, and an emergency child custody order may be available.  Courts are still open (as of April 20, 2020) for emergency child custody orders, but there has to be a real emergency.  There must be a threat of imminent harm to the children.

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