Child custody & COVID-19: What you need to know

Court-ordered parenting time is essential travel
Child custody & COVID-19: What you need to know
Posted at 12:21 AM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 02:21:56-04

SOUTHERN COLORADO — Parents who share custody of their kids may have some questions about how the novel coronavirus could impact their lives. Court ordered transportation of a child from one parent's house to the other is still considered essential travel, which means people could get into legal trouble if they refuse to do so.

Jeffrey Humeny said he is an editor for the Father's Rights Movement, which believes in sharing custody of children evenly between two parents. Humeny said he has been fighting for shared parenting of his own children for years, and COVID-19 has caused more custody problems for parents across the state. "It's actually caused a lot of animosity. Basically, parents are not allowing the other parent to see their child for fear of transferring the virus," said Humeny.

It's a situation Niko Gonzales said he understands, as he claims his ex will not let him see their child because they are self-isolating. "We did not make an agreement. I would have been more than willing to make one if I would have been reached out to, instead of ignored," said Gonzales.

News5 spoke with a handful of attorneys, who all said the best option for parents who are separated is to try and come to an agreement outside of the courtroom. "As long as both parents agree, you can do anything. You can change your parenting time temporarily because you want to keep the child in one house," said Jennifer Knies, a partner at Knies, Helland & McPherson Attorneys at Law.

Knies said the most important thing to keep in mind is what's best for the children involved."It's nice for them to have the consistency of their normal routine with a parent and being able to see mom and dad both during this time when they might be pretty scared about what's going on in the world," said Knies.

However, when two parents cannot come to an agreement, issues could arise. "It's when one parent starts trying to make a decision for the kids without consulting the other parent, that's when you could run into problems," said Andrew Bryant, an attorney who's been representing Humeny throughout his case.

One attorney News5 spoke with said they have even seen people trying to file motions that are not true during this time, to try and take advantage of the system. "We're seeing people filing frivolous motions saying that their kid has been exposed to the virus in the other parent's household. That wasn't true," said Rich Harris of the Harris Law Firm.

Harris also recommends if you can come to an agreement with your ex, to make sure and have a record of it. "What we recommend that people do is get the agreement, get it signed, but when you can try and get it filed with the court and approved by a judge," said Harris.

If you want to make a change to your visitation schedule and cannot come to an agreement, you must ask a judge for the change. There's also a way to alter child support payments. "If you're under a child support order and you lose your job, it definitely makes sense to file a motion with the court to modify your support as soon as you can," said Harris.

If you do not obey the court ordered visitation schedule and do not reach an agreement with your ex, you could be found in contempt of the court, with possible jail time, fines, or makeup parenting hours.

As far as the $500 check from the government, Harris said the money should go to the custodial parent. However, he also said if you really need the money, to speak with a CPA or lawyer about a way to get it sent to your address.