How COVID-19 Can Affect Your Parenting Plan and Custody Agreements 

The COVID-19 virus currently gripping New Mexico presents several challenges for co-parenting families. This article will discuss some challenges many New Mexican families may face and what you can do to overcome them! 

The Convid-19 crisis is increasingly bringing our public life to a standstill. All New Mexico public schools are closed for the next three weeks, public gatherings are being restricted, and many places of business are sending employees home. Even the family law courts in Albuquerque are canceling all hearings for the foreseeable future. In such circumstances, many families understandably have questions about how to co-parent effectively in times of disruption without violating court orders or stipulated agreements. 


The first major change to our usual routines is school cancellations. While this can present childcare issues, it’s important to remember you must adhere to the general time-sharing agreement laid out in your parenting plan. If it is your week, you are still responsible for child care for that time. On the same token, pick up times and drop off times still need to be observed. That also means that you cannot necessarily dictate how the other parent behaves when it’s their time with the children. Just because you are actively trying to limit your children’s contact with the public doesn’t mean your spouse has to as well. Just because mom or dad takes the kids to the grocery store without germ masks and buckets of hand sanitizer doesn’t mean they are putting the kid’s health at risk- at least from a legal standpoint. That being said, the best way to maximize the best interests of your children is to communicate effectively and cooperate unselfishly. Just because you can take your kids to public places doesn’t mean you should. Just because you have the kids this week doesn’t mean you can’t let them go with the other parent if they are working from home or off of work. Even though you don’t have to follow your ex’s sanitation and virus protection plans, it still might be in your children’s best interests to do so. The point is communicating with the other parent, coordinating your schedules, adjusting pickup times or places, and working together to adjust to the circumstances is the best way to do the right thing for your child and stay out of court. If you can, reach out to the other parent and discuss how you want to deal with time off from school, public outings and prevention measures. Getting on the same page now can save you a headache down the road.


If your parenting plan addresses a “holiday schedule”, like spring break, you must follow the agreed-upon plan. For example, the extra weeks off of school due to COVID-19 do not count as spring break in the “holiday schedule”. If you are hoping to get more time with the kids because you’re considering this a long spring break you’re wrong. You have to wait until the actual day the children’s spring break begins under the non-modified school calendar to get your timeshare.  The time-sharing plan establishes minimum standards for time-sharing. If you are able to communicate effectively with the other parent, respectfully request additional time and present it in terms of the best interest of the children.


If communications fail and you need help, you still have options. Although there are currently no family court hearings in the Second Judicial District Court, you can still file motions to enforce or modify the parenting plan. If substantial changes in circumstance occurs, like you lost your job, you can also file motions to modify your parenting plan and child support agreements. As always, a good rule of thumb is to follow all existing agreements. If you have specific questions or concerns about your custody or child support agreement, or this is a wake up call that you need to change things in the future, you can contact Genus Law to set up your free consultation with one of our Albuquerque Family Law lawyers by chatting online with someone now or by calling (505)-317-4455.

Anthony Spratley
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Experienced Divorce, Child Custody, Domestic Violence and Estate Planning Lawyer Serving ABQ and Beyond