Deciding whether to send your children back to the school building in the Fall, home school, or opt for online learning has been a difficult one for many New Jersey families.
Here are my thoughts.
One parent may be worried that the lack of in-person contact with other students, other children, teachers, other educators; that’s really impacting children’s mental health.
On the flip side, the other parent may worry about their kids getting sick from COVID-19.
If they do go back into classrooms, there is not going to be a whole lot of social distancing possible. Kids are probably not going to want to wear face coverings. Whatever it may be, these parents are concerned it will only increase the spread of COVID-19.
When one parent has primary custody
When it comes to situations where one parent has primary physical custody of the child or children, case law favors the decision of that parent.
If one parent has primary physical care of the children, that means they have that label assigned to them specifically by the court: primary physical care parent. They must listen to the other parent, of course. They must take their concerns and consideration; they must have a discussion with the other parent. But ultimately that parent does get to make the call whether it’s virtual or in person.
When parents have joint custody
When parents share equal custody, which is becoming increasingly popular in New Jersey, the situation becomes more tricky.
If one parent wants one thing, another parent wants another; the case law presumes there’s one parent with primary physical care. So who breaks that tie? Probably a judge.
When neither parent has custody
It’s another situation when two partners were never married and neither were granted custody by a court degree or order.
In that case, if only one parent is on the birth certificate, that parent makes decisions. If both parents are on the birth certificate, it just might be whoever contacts the school first.
However, due to COVID-19, courts have been at a back log.
The court systems are really overburdened right now. We’re still really backed up due to Covid-19. And this will just add to that layer of over-saturation of the court system.
Don’t involve the kids in the decision
Lastly, it is generally not a good idea to get the kids involved in the decision.
Many parents make the mistake of trying to get the kids involved and asking them their opinions in a lot of divorce cases. This can cause a lot of issues for all parties.
One parent is asking the child or the children – hey – what do you want to do? Do you want to go back to school with all your friends? Or do you want to stay home in the house all day with your other parents. So that type of behavior is just exacerbating the existing challenges we see today.
Ronald Lieberman, Esq. is a partner and shareholder at ALBFRM in Haddonfield, NJ. He has focused his career handling all matters related to divorce and family law.