This is the next post in a series of articles discussing COVID-related custody and visitation disputes in Las Vegas, Nevada. My previous article focused on when it may be appropriate to involve the Court in a disagreement between co-parents tied to the pandemic. As in every custody dispute, parents should make every effort to resolve the matter on their own before initiating legal action. This is particularly true in light of the widespread disruptions caused by the virus and the need for flexibility during these unprecedented times. That said, if a legitimate dispute arises, such as over a child’s safety or health, it may be appropriate to seek resolution through the legal process. An experienced custody attorney can help you understand your options. In this article, I will discuss how the Court may view requests for modifications to existing custody orders during the COVID-19 crisis. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
After a custody order has been issued, there are a variety of reasons that parents may wish to modify the arrangement. For instance, modifications to custody, visitation schedules, or child support may become necessary if a parent gets a new job, becomes unemployed, needs to relocate, gets remarried, etc. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional concerns, such as the educational needs of a child or health and safety concerns may cause a parent to seek a modification. To do so, the parent seeking a custody modification must demonstrate, by presenting objective evidence to the Court, that a change in circumstances has occurred since the current order was issued and, as a result, the existing order is no longer in the child’s best interest. For instance, if a father loses his job at the casino and finds another job in California, his current rotating weekly custody schedule will no longer be feasible. In light of the change in circumstances, he may wish to modify his custody order to seek primary physical custody and relocate to California with his child. If he can present evidence that the new location and arrangement would be in the child’s best interest, the Court may grant his request.
Considering the various ways that the coronavirus has impacted our lives, it is not hard to imagine a plethora of pandemic-related issues that may cause a parent to seek a custody modification. It is important to remember, however, that the Court will apply the same analysis to a COVID-based modification request as it applies to other modification requests. The request must be based upon a change in circumstances that makes the existing order no longer in the child’s best interest. A minor disagreement, temporary issue, or differences of opinion will not likely justify a permanent modification of a custody order. For example, a mother works as an Amazon delivery driver and is required to work mandatory overtime every Saturday for three months during the pandemic. She normally has visitation with her child Friday through Sunday each week. During the overtime months, mom plans to have her mother watch the child every Saturday. The child’s father discovers this information and asks the Court to permanently modify their custody arrangement to reduce the mother’s visitation to Sundays only. While the difference in mom’s work schedule may constitute a change in circumstances, the Court may view the temporary pandemic-related nature of the change as insufficient to justify a permanent modification. Furthermore, reducing the mother’s visitation under these circumstances may not be considered to be in the child’s best interest.
I am a child custody attorney with significant experience representing Las Vegas parents in such matters. I understand the additional stress COVID-19 has placed on many of my clients and their families and am ready to assist those who have been affected. If you need help, contact my office today to schedule a consultation with a lawyer.