How Does The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Affect Divorce And Domestic Relations In Ohio Courts?
Ohio is under a state of emergency declared by Governor DeWine. Life will be very different for all of us for the foreseeable future. The ramifications of the viral nightmare are significant and changing by the hour. Not only do we need to practice social distancing but schools are closed – jobs and business are changing and many being lost.
While not trying to be glum, there are huge consequences for divorced individuals with shared parenting or other parenting schedules. In addition, divorce courts now generally have skeleton staffing in place and are only holding only emergency type hearings/trials such as on Domestic Protection Order matters. Further, there is really no caselaw or precedent that Judges and lawyers can cite that is instructive as to how Court’s will likely deal with Coronavirus related parenting disputes.
3 PARENTING TIPS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
- Communicate More with Your Ex-Spouse: No matter how cordial your communications have been with your Ex, now is the time that you BOTH need to improve them and minimize any squabbling. Remember that the most important priority is focusing on maintaining your health and that of your children. Let all the little things go! If you or a child develops a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms, don’t panic. Get on the phone with your Ex to develop a joint action plan. Work together. This unity of purpose will greatly reduce your stress and anxiety. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE and COMMUNICATE – as perhaps you never have done in the past!
- Flexibility is Key: Don’t think that you need to stick with the specific language in the Court’s parenting Order. Common sense (and the fine print in the Order) expects the parties to alter the schedule as they agree in order to accommodate the best interests of the children. That mandate is VERY broad – perfect for dealing with these everchanging times! Forget about your “rights” as the Mom or Dad. Being rigid won’t work in these times. Try to develop a new schedule to follow but adjust as necessary. You will be able to return to the old schedule once this craziness ends.
- Support Obligation: Under Ohio law, you are responsible for Court ordered child support (and alimony) until you request a modification from the court indicating the basis for the change in circumstances. If you lose your income or job, the Court has the authority to reduce/modify your support obligation back to the date of your filing your modification motion (not any further back in time). But before taking that approach, talk with your ex and explain the circumstances and try to work out an agreement. If you do reach an agreement, contact your divorce lawyer to prepare an Agreed Entry setting forth the agreed upon terms with the Court. This practice is done all the time to protect the party from a claim that he/she is in Contempt for failing to pay the higher amount pursuant to the Court Order. If you cannot reach an agreement, contact your divorce lawyer to file the appropriate modification motion.
COVID-19 Help and Resources
The Ohio State Bar Association has consolidated a ton of very helpful Coronavirus legal resources together in one place. To read them, click here.
The foregoing is only a sample of parenting issues that people are going to have to grapple with in the wake of this global pandemic. It is important to understand that there are options. Be sure to contact your divorce lawyer if you have questions and specific concerns. Every County in Ohio is dealing with divorce cases and the Coronavirus issues differently. Your local experienced divorce attorneys will know the “tendencies” of each Judge and will guide you as to the best approach to protect the rights and safety of your children in these extremely challenging times upon us!
Schedule an appointment now
If you are looking for a lawyer in the Dayton area to assist you with your Coronavirus legal concerns or with a divorce or other family law matters, call us at Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues for an appointment at 937 293-2141. At this time, we are encouraging phone conferences and are remaining very flexible in order to accommodate our client’s needs.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.