Exploring Alternative Dispute Resolution for Families during Coronavirus


There can be no doubt that the history books will write about COVID-19 and that some parts of life as we know may have permanently changed. Under stay-at-home orders, it might seem like your life and divorce have come to a screeching halt indefinitely. That can be very disconcerting and frustrating for co-parents and spouses, particularly where parenting time issues exist. And though courts are still hearing emergent applications, it can be hard to know if your situation will qualify as an “emergency” such that it warrants filing an application that may or may not be heard over the next few months. So what are your options?

There is no “one size fits all” approach during this pivotal time. If you and your co-parent have a court order in place or some other custody agreement, try to be compliant as much as possible. However, this is also not the time to try to fit a square peg into a round hole. It is important to recognize that some parents will inevitably need to work additional hours to deal with the crisis, while others may have lost income and be traversing the world of homeschool. Now is the time to be flexible, creative, and reasonable to maintain the best interests of your children.

Of course, finding the line between following a court order or agreement and being flexible with your co-parent may make you feel like you’re Nik Wallenda performing a high-wire act across Times Square. That’s why it is important to have an experienced attorney helping you navigate dispute resolution in uncertain times. Find a knowledgeable family law attorney who is keeping abreast of current changes in the law and can guide you through your options. For parents struggling to agree on parenting time exchanges or other matters, consider utilizing parent coordination, a non-adversarial process with a neutral third party, to address the issues. For spouses who don’t want to press “pause” on their divorce, now may be the perfect time to work with an experienced mediator via videoconference or telephone.

Whatever your situation, our family law practitioners are ready to collaborate with you to create an approach that is best for you and your family. If you are ready to schedule mediation, Mary Ann Stokes is available for mediations at this critical time.