Coronavirus Legal FAQs

Should I modify my custody order during the coronavirus pandemic?

The courts in New York are largely not accepting new cases electronically or on paper. However, courts are open for emergency hearings. If you need to make a permanent change to your custody order due to a prolonged change, we can discuss filing a modification after the pandemic. However, if your child’s health or safety is in jeopardy, we can discuss whether you should seek an emergency order to protect your child.

Can I file for divorce in Rochester during the pandemic?

Yes, the courts are now open.

What if my divorce is pending? Can I still get divorced during the pandemic?

The courts are allowing current cases to be conferenced via Skype or telephone.  Attorneys are able to discuss any issues that exist directly with the judge and opposing counsel to see if the case can be resolved.  If a resolution is reached, generally a written agreement is prepared and the parties thereafter sign it.  Presently, Divorces are not able to be filed because the Monroe County Clerk is not accepting new filings and not allowing any filings on currently pending cases.  This is a dynamic situation which is likely to change in the bear future with more and more filings allowed.

What if there is an emergency with my family?

The court is accepting petitions based on emergencies, such as if your health or safety is threatened, your child’s health or safety is threatened, or there is an immediate threat to your property or finances. Contact us immediately to discuss your situation and we can explain whether emergency relief may be available.

How will stimulus checks be divided between divorcing or recently divorced spouses?

Stimulus checks are being distributed based on your 2019 tax information. So, if you filed married filing jointly and had your 2019 income tax return direct deposited to a checking account, the stimulus check will be deposited to the same account. If you no longer have access to that account, you may have to negotiate with your spouse for your portion. If you have not yet gotten divorced, be sure to include the stimulus payment as part of your divorce settlement.

Is my parenting plan still in effect during coronavirus social distancing?

Yes. Unless your parenting plan is modified, it remains in effect until there is a subsequent court order. There may be ways to mitigate your potential exposure through social distancing, but providing court-ordered parenting time is considered essential travel even during a pandemic.

We currently have 50/50 parenting time established and I am worried that the other parent is not following safety protocols during their time with our child. Is there something I can file with the court for temporary intervention?

If you are worried about the health or safety of your child, we can discuss whether you should seek an emergency or temporary order through the court’s intervention. However, before taking this step, you may want to try to work it out with the other parent and try to get them to follow safety protocols for the sake of your child.

I am an unmarried parent. I have a written parenting agreement to share 50/50 parenting time. The other parent informed me that they are temporarily suspending my parenting time because of the coronavirus. Can she do that?

The other parent cannot unilaterally change the parenting agreement when you have a court-ordered child custody plan. We can discuss your options to resolve this situation during a confidential consultation, which may include seeking intervention from the family court due to your suspended visitation.

What can I do if I am denied parenting time by the other parent because of the coronavirus?

If the other parent is currently denying you parenting time even though you have court-ordered parenting time, a court may be able to resolve the issue for you. You may be able to file a petition to modify or enforce the current order. Contact us to discuss your rights and legal options.

Do we have to follow the parenting plan if we, as parents, agree that a different plan would be better for our children during the coronavirus?

Parents are expected to act in their child’s best interests. If you and the other parent believe that an alternative plan is better, such as using the alternate schedule when your child is not in school, you can begin implementing it. It is best to get a new agreement in writing.

How should parents handle child exchanges while also practicing social distancing? What do we do about supervised exchanges?

Unless you and the other parent agree to modify the parenting plan or your child custody order is modified, you must continue to follow the same plan. This requires you to complete exchanges as usual. There are some reasonable steps you can take during exchanges to decrease your likelihood of infection, such as not talking with the other parent or having contact with them or meeting in a large outdoor space. Visits may be conducted over Skype or similar means if necessary.