Parents face many new challenges during the coronavirus Covid-19. For separated and divorced parents, difficult questions often include how to manage child visitation, while complying with the Kansas statewide stay-home order, government health and safety guidelines, and the terms of an existing agreement or court order. State custody and visitation laws provide clear guidelines for parents to follow — and help is available if you need it.
At the law firm of Hampton & Royce in Salina, Kansas, we share the concerns of all parents, individuals, families, and businesses during this difficult, uncertain time. Our attorneys continue to be available to assist existing and new clients with legal matters, including family law matters such as child visitation and custody. Please reach out to us if we can assist you.
The first thing for separated and divorced parents to know is that your custody and visitation orders, parental agreements, and parenting plans are still in effect. Kansas law requires that you abide by them.
There are no circumstances where one parent can unilaterally change the terms of a visitation order or agreement. Only a court has authority to modify an order. If you violate a court order, you may be held in contempt of court and eventually could face other consequences relating to custody and visitation as well.
By order of the Kansas Supreme Court, all courts in the state have ceased operations except for emergency matters and jury trials in progress as of March 18. Emergency operations include “child in need of care hearings and orders.” However, it is unlikely that a parental disagreement over child visitation will rise to the level that a court would consider it an emergency matter, unless the situation puts the child in danger.
Parents should try to work together in addressing new visitation issues that arise during Covid-19. While no visitation agreement, order, or parenting plan ever contemplated the circumstances we all face now, parents can be guided by the same principles that Kansas courts apply in making custody and visitation determinations.
Kansas judges prefer that parents work out custody and visitation issues themselves, even when that means involving lawyers or mediators. If parents cannot resolve problems, the court makes determinations about visitation based on what is in the “best interests of the child.” That means taking into account the child’s emotional, social, and educational needs. A judge also considers whether an arrangement provides a parent with reasonable visitation.
Parents who need to resolve differences about visitation should apply these same criteria as the courts. Focus first on the best interests of your child, above all else. Then try to find a reasonable solution to the issues.
Answers will be easiest to find if the parents stay flexible and even look for creative solutions. For example, compromises may include agreeing to additional holiday or vacation time in the future instead of present visitation, or using alternative means for visits, like video chatting or more frequent phone conversations.
When courts fashion custody and visitation terms, they focus on making certain that a child maintains an ongoing relationship with each parent. When parents are trying resolving visitation issues, they should keep that goal in mind as well. Ultimately, the child benefits when parents find workable solutions to disruptions in their relationships.
The best resolution depends entirely on the circumstances of each specific situation. Obviously, if there are risks to the child in a household, such as a person exposed or tested positive for Covid-19 or a person working on the front lines with patients, those facts may make finding a solution more difficult. Each situation must be assessed based on the specific facts and living arrangements.
Keep in mind that the Kansas stay-home order includes caring for children among essential activities, so visitation is not precluded by the order. As such, the order recognizes that taking care of our children is extremely important during the Covid-19 restrictions.
Ultimately, it may be necessary to ask a court to modify visitation conditions to address issues that arise during Covid-19. But at the present time, in the absence of circumstances that endanger the welfare of a child, parents need to work together to take the child’s best interests into account and find solutions to issues.
If parents simply are not able to find a solution by working together, turning to an experienced family law attorney is a good option. If either or both parents enlist the help of a lawyer, negotiations are likely to go more smoothly. Solutions may be easier to find.
Conflict between parents will be obvious to a child eventually and can negatively affect them. Avoiding clashes is important is important for that reason. If you cannot resolve the problems together, contact an attorney early in the process and get help finding a solution.
Risks posed by the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic will be over at some point in the future. Parents should focus on making sure that children get through this challenging time with a lot of support and reassurance, so they emerge safely and healthy. Protecting them, taking care of their needs, and safeguarding their welfare should be every parent’s goal during this time.
If you face any issue involving child visitation or custody, or if you need assistance with any type of domestic or family law issue, our experienced Salina, Kansas domestic and family law attorneys at Hampton & Royce, L.C. are here to help. For parents or other attorneys interested in mediation services for family law issues, we also have the experience and expertise to facilitate resolution of domestic matters privately.
We serve clients throughout the State of Kansas. Contact us to schedule a consultation.