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COVID-19 & Family Law in Kansas City, Update 1

The rapid onset of restrictions and recommendations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly troubling for parents whose children travel between two households. Most of what we hear from doctors and politicians doesn’t address this situation, even though it is anything but unique.  Courts are closed except for emergencies and lawyers are busy transitioning their practices to remote operations, so clear direction can be hard to obtain. The pandemic is affecting everything from making decisions for children, to sharing time and arranging exchanges, to the ability to pay child support.

What We Are Doing to Stay Informed:

At Mann Tucker Muir, LLC our experienced family law team is staying up to date on these issues while things continue to change rapidly.  We are participating in conversations with local judges and psychologists.  We are discussing these issues with other practitioners through forums facilitated by the several local Bar Associations.  We are monitoring the advice of recognized national associations like the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the American Bar Association Family Law Section and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.   We also are communicating with attorneys in communities that are experiencing different restrictions so that we can appropriately plan for what likely is coming in the near future.

What Parents Should Consider for Facilitating Parenting Time:

Parents should follow all CDC, local and state guidelines regarding protecting the health of your children as well as your own health. Minimize your risk of contracting the virus and do the same for your children. The logistics of sharing time with children between two households become exponentially more complicated once someone within either household contracts or becomes exposed to the virus.

Most lawyers are telling their clients to follow their current court order but also be flexible when reasonable and necessary. We know that this is easier said than done. Parents may also have disagreements about how they should be handling issues such as travel, playdates, and e-learning. At MTM our family law attorneys have many years of experience and can help you make reasonable decisions about when to be creative and flexible with current parenting time orders and other parenting decisions. While disputes may not be decided by a judge for weeks or even months, it is important to remember that actions today will likely have consequences tomorrow.

Financial Considerations for Parents:

As the crisis continues, many families will also be affected by layoffs and other changes in income. In Kansas, a court can modify child support based on certain changes in circumstances, but only retroactive to the date that a petition to modify is filed with the court. Might this rule be changed due to the current crisis? That is a question yet to be answered but until it is, a parent’s best bet is to consult with an attorney, as soon as a significant change is apparent or becomes reality, about how to address this reduction in income.

The federal government is working on at least one stimulus package to help Americans survive financially during this crisis. Many questions will arise about how the receipt of benefits will affect child-related financial obligations. In addition, with cash payments on the table for individuals and children, how will those be shared between divorced parents? We are following these developments closely and will be equipped to advise our clients on how to handle these payments when they are received.

We look forward to helping you through this unique and troubling crisis. Our family law team is available by telephone or e-mail. Contact our office to schedule a remote consultation.

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