School During COVID Causes New Custody Problems I KingSpry

The New Norm for the School Year Causes New Problems for Divorced and Separated Parents

Posted on October 5th, 2020
by Jessica F. Moyer

In general, choosing which school learning model is best for your child can lead to custodial and child support implications, so it is not surprising to see an uptick in custodial disputes between divorced or separated parents regarding the non-traditional reopening plans schools have implemented in response to COVID-19.

The authority over major decisions including but not limited to a child’s education, religious upbringing, and medical needs are usually shared between parents. However, parents cannot seem to agree on the circumstances and plans surrounding how to send their children back to school in the middle of a pandemic.

There are three possible modalities of education schools have been implementing – fully in person, a blended (“hybrid”) learning model, or a fully online, remote learning model. Parents are dealing with some complicated choices, and current custody and child support orders may not necessarily address some of these specific, indirect effects felt from a pandemic. The issue intensifies especially when it is not safe to send a child with health concerns or an underlying condition back to any level of in-person learning. What parent has to stay home? Are possible home-schooling costs included in child support payments? What happens if neither parent can work from home?

The serious question then becomes, “What decision making process is able to ensure the health and safety of a child while still exposing the child to a continuity of education, and how can parents come to an agreement to ensure that result?” What happens if online is possible for a child with a health concern, but Dad or Mom must work? Or, what if a school shuts down because of infection rates and moves to a fully online system? Who is staying home with the child? Who is overseeing the child’s education?

If the parents cannot agree, the only recourse the law provides is through a judge’s decision on what is ultimately best for the child.

The custodial decisions may then have a direct impact on a child support obligation. Either a parent must hire someone to watch their child, pay for daycare, or not go into work which may have irreversible and negative consequences. Fully remote education could mean expenses for internet access, laptops or computers, and other needs surrounding learning from home. Child support orders may need to be modified to address the additional expenses.

If you have a question about your custody arrangements, please contact your legal counsel or one of the Family Law attorneys at KingSpry.

Lehigh Valley Family Law is a publication of KingSpry’s Family Law Practice Group. It is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.