Can we temporarily change our parenting plan by verbal agreement until quarantine is over?
I practice law in the state of South Carolina. Unless you live there, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of your state, but I can give you some general observations on family law issues and how they are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the jurisdiction where I practice.
The answer is yes, and it highly is encouraged that parents be reasonable in attaining such an agreement. It is inevitable that both parties will experience some roadblock that renders their rights short of what is court ordered. Both parents should expect to make concessions for the other to abide by the spirit of the agreement as much as possible. A family court judge undoubtedly will respect the parties and their decisions considering the circumstances.
If you are the parent being asked to make a change in the parenting plan, then you should consider these requests. Keep in mind that your conduct can be scrutinized by a judge if the facts show that you were not being reasonable under the circumstances. It also is important that you make clear to the other parent that the change strictly is intended until such times as things get back to normal. You should be careful in not allowing the other party to misconstrue the change as a new agreement, but rather a temporary agreement.
If you are the parent requesting for a change in the parenting plan, then you should memorialize these communications whether the changes are consented to or not. Memorialized communications can be recorded through text message, email, or any other form of written communication wherein you can justify the other party’s intent. If the changes are not consented to by the other party, then these communications will come in handy when illustrating to a family court judge the conduct of the other parent should you need to go to court in the future. Similarly, these memorialized communications will protect the requesting parent should the other party claim some violation of the Agreement in the future. The bottom line is that written communication is key when communicating with the other parent.
Due to the fact-specific nature of this situation, I would strongly suggest you contact an attorney who handles family law matters in your jurisdiction to see how your state’s laws specifically can help you with this serious situation. This type of attorney should be helpful in providing you specific assistance for your matter. Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than tips, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they particularly impact your potential case.