If you were recently divorced and have minor children from your marriage, if you are in the middle of a divorce case involving school-aged kids, or if you have been divorced for some time and share child custody with your ex, you are probably thinking about how the COVID-19 pandemic could affect child custody schedules and the upcoming school year. In particular, parents should be thinking about how parenting time will work if your job is not remote, and you have a work schedule that depends upon your kids physically being at school during regular business hours.
Northern Virginia School Plans for the Fall
Many Northern Virginia school districts are planning for a remote or virtual start to the school year, which means that parents who have physically returned to work during school hours may have difficulty with an existing child custody arrangement. For example, an article in Inside Nova reported that Manassas schools are set to start the school year with “virtual-only instruction.” Similarly, an article in the Patch reported that Fairfax County Public Schools have indicated that there will be a “virtual only start to the academic year.” In Fairfax County, that means more than 189,000 students who are typically at school during school hours will be learning remotely (and most likely at home), at least for the time being.
Developing a Parenting Time Schedule
If you are in the process of a divorce and a child custody arrangement (Code of Va. § 20-124.2) has not yet been finalized, it may be possible to take into consideration each parent’s ability to work remotely while the kids are learning virtually from home. If the current circumstances under the pandemic do play a role in how your parenting time schedule is developed, it may be possible to modify parenting time at a later point in time when coronavirus risks recede (we will say more about modification shortly). At the same time, the child custody arrangement should, in theory, last until there has been a significant change in circumstances.
Depending upon the child custody arrangement, it may be possible to keep a schedule in place that would work during non-pandemic times and to hire a babysitter (or make other plans for childcare) who can fill in while you are at work during the day while your children are attending school remotely and during the time they might have spent in after-school activities.
Modifying Child Custody Due to School Schedules
If your work schedule and your kids’ virtual school schedule makes your current child custody arrangement entirely impracticable or even impossible, you may be able to modify the child custody order under Virginia law (Code of Va. § 20-108). To be eligible to modify any family court order, the petitioning party typically must show that there has been a material change in circumstances.
Generally speaking, modifications are much easier if both parents agree, and they can be more difficult if one parent must petition the court for a modification while the other parent contests it.
Contact a Northern Virginia Child Custody Attorney
Child custody can be complicated even under normal circumstances, but the global pandemic has made child custody and parenting time issues much more complex. In particular, as schools in Northern Virginia plan for remote or virtual education, parents will need to consider the ways in which their own work schedules will impact their ability to abide by a child custody arrangement that is in place.
If you have questions or concerns, you should not hesitate to get in touch with an experienced Fairfax child custody lawyer about your situation. experienced Manassas divorce attorneys can help. Do not hesitate to get in touch with our firm. Contact Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C. to learn more about how we can assist you.