The coronavirus pandemic is complicating custody arrangements and divorce agreements for residents of Arizona, according to Stewart Law Group.
In some cases, parents are concerned about their children traveling to another state to be with their other parent, especially if cases are rising there. In other cases, parents are concerned about children staying in a household with a frontline worker such as a nurse or doctor. The temporary closure of many businesses has also affected the ability to pay alimony.
“The coronavirus has thrown many divorced families a curveball,” said Scott David Stewart, head of the Phoenix-based family law firm. “Everything from custody arrangements to spousal maintenance was worked out before the pandemic, and they’ve had to come up with new arrangements on the fly.”
Stewart Law Group has worked with a number of clients on informal arrangements meant to last until the worst of the pandemic has passed, while others have sought to change legal documents. In some extreme cases, former spouses have used the coronavirus to sue paramedics, doctors and nurses for custody, arguing that the parent’s potential exposure to the virus places the child in danger.
Stewart said that the disputes are being resolved on a case-by-case basis, so it’s hard to say what the overall trend is. For former spouses who remain on good terms, it’s not serious, but for those who have already fought in court, it could spell trouble in the long term, he said.
“Family law has not yet caught up to the pandemic,” Stewart added. “As these cases continue to crop up, lawmakers are going to need to think through what the new rules should be. Parents deserve to know how cases will be decided before they go into a courtroom.”