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Divorced Couples, Their Families, and COVID-19: How to Navigate Returning to School


child wearing a covid-19 mask for protection

Now that the CDC recognizes a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases, many parents are asking if it is truly safe for their children to go back to school in person. Complicating that decision are conflicting wishes of divorced couples who must make collaborative decisions about their child’s education. If you are a parent of a school-aged child who disagrees with an ex-spouse regarding your child’s schooling, you need the advice of an experienced family law attorney. Eveland & Foster, LLC  are renowned divorce and family law attorneys in the Greater New Jersey area, and they can assist you in making parenting decisions with your ex-spouse in the era of COVID-19.

Between November 1, 2020 and November 5, 2020, the State of New Jersey reported more than 9,500 new cases. Cases are at their highest levels since Mid-June. While the New Jersey State Department of Education intended to open schools for in-person learning in early December, those plans are now being re-evaluated. In Morris County, New Jersey, plans were made to return students to in person learning in early January. Those students included children in middle and high school.

Now that those plans have been revised, children in grades K-5 will not return to in-person learning until at least January 15, 2021 and children in grades 6-12 will not return until the first week of February 2021. It will consist of hybrid learning (a mixture of virtual and in-person instruction) with alternating schedules and staggering of student arrivals and departures. This will further complicate schedules and coordination for divorced parents of minor children, but it is critical at this juncture for parents to recognize that flexibility and a desire to collaborate can assist children in a smooth transition.

Revisions to Parental Agreements and Physical Custody Arrangements

If you share joint physical custody of your child with your ex-spouse, you might have a split 4-3, or 3-2-3 weekly arrangement, in which both parents are responsible for ensuring the child is ready for school each day. This is compounded when virtually schooling takes place and the child requires adult supervision. In some cases, both parents are essential workers and have been unable to hire child care to supervise their children during virtual learning hours. If your spouse refuses to assist your child with schoolwork, getting logged on for virtual learning, and getting to school on time for in-person learning, they are violating the terms of your marital settlement agreement and/or parenting agreement. It is critical you seek the assistance of an experienced attorney to assist you in an amicable solution. Your child’s well-being is of utmost importance. Eveland & Foster, LLC can ensure that the best interests of your child are upheld during a dispute or settlement conference with your ex-spouse.

Resolving In-Person or Virtual Learning Disputes With Your Ex-Spouse

You can resolve educational disputes with your ex-spouse by meeting with an attorney for possible revisions or amendments to your parenting plan. If your ex-spouse has been exposed to Covid-19 or is not following protocol, it might be necessary for you to retain temporary full physical custody. Only a judge can make revisions to a parenting agreement, after a hearing between both parties. But remember, legal custody includes decisions about education, homeschooling vs. public or private school, and opting out of in-person learning in the Spring semester. Parents might want to consider revising a split week plan and alternating to one full calendar week for each parent, with drop-off/pick-up on the weekends. Also, both parents should ensure the child has an adequate workspace for virtual schooling, along with a laptop/tablet and reliable internet connection, and parental supervision for logging on and participating in virtual classes.

Call Eveland & Foster, LLC Today

The Law Offices of Eveland & Foster, LLC are experienced family law attorneys.  They produce proven results and outcomes for their clients and have assisted many clients in the new era of COVID-19. While the pandemic has brought many challenges, it does not change the law. Parents are required to seek a resolution that is in the best interest of the children, and that includes decisions regarding education. Now more than ever it is essential that children experience some sense of normalcy when everything else has changed. It is crucial that divorced parents try to collaborate and communicate openly when it pertains to following COVID-19 protocols and making choices about virtual or in person schooling. If you are faced with difficulty from your ex-spouse regarding your child’s education and school plans, and you need help, call Eveland & Foster, LLC today for a consultation and review of your potential options.

Disclaimer: This website and information presented are for the purposes of legal marketing and general education. No part of this site should be construed as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney regarding your specific situation. Please do not submit any confidential personal information through this website either by email contact form or chat. No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. We welcome your inquiries and offer consultations, however neither contacting our firm nor receiving a consultation establishes an attorney-client relationship.

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