Maryland parents know that this school year will look very different because of COVID-19, but getting back to class is a welcome change for many families. Schools across the US are reopening according to a wide variety of schedules and plans, and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is one that will go with virtual learning for students through the first semester. The arrangement creates challenges between parents who may also be dealing with their own scheduling as they work from home, in the office, or a combination of both.
However, for parents who must address child custody issues, the reopening of schools can present seemingly insurmountable hurdles. The topics you covered, included, and specified in your current Maryland parenting plan will probably not be practical for the coming school year. Co-parents must adjust and adapt, especially when it comes to the unique circumstances of virtual schooling for your children. You can trust a Maryland child custody lawyer for assistance with the legal details, but also here are some tips can help make back-to-school go as smooth as possible:
- Virtual Schooling Location: MCPS will engage in remote learning at least until January 29, 2021, though it could be in place longer based upon determinations by state and local health officials. Therefore, parents need to plan far ahead – even amid the uncertainty that surrounds COVID-19. The best interests of the child standard will always be paramount; however, for purposes of residential custody, you need to decide what arrangement is most appropriate to support the child for virtual instruction. Your decision may be clear-cut if one parent works from home, but you need to be flexible regarding other plans.
- Regular Visitation Schedule: Once you have some structure around the child’s primary residence and virtual schooling plan, you must work on a schedule for the non-residential parent. Your child will presumably have evenings and weekends free with remote learning, just as he or she would with a traditional school schedule. As such, it may be possible to stick with some of the visitation details you included in your existing parenting plan. Stability in this respect can be beneficial, allowing you to continue doing alternating weekends and/or nights per week as visitation – whatever arrangement was suitable in previous school years.
- Holidays, Breaks, and Special Occasions: Virtual schooling may not have a significant impact to your current custody and visitation plan in this area, since you already addressed holidays and school breaks. Still, you need to review the arrangement to ensure it is still workable. Make sure that each parent will have time with the children and adjust as necessary.
- Child Care and Right of First Refusal: When unexpected developments affect custody and visitation, one parent may need to make alternate arrangements for childcare. Under such circumstances, co-parents may need to discuss the right of first refusal. If the parent who has caretaking responsibilities cannot do so, he or she would be required to offer the opportunity to the other – before going to a third party.
- Outdoor and Extracurricular Activities: Virtual instruction is the preferred option for many parents from a safety perspective, but children will still need engagement and enrichment with friends outside of school. Depending on your unique needs and circumstances, you should incorporate outdoor and extracurricular activities in any discussions regarding child custody.
Consult with a Maryland Child Custody Attorney About Back-to-School Issues
Even with these tips, it is possible that co-parents can run into disputes as they try to juggle schedules and virtual learning. If you need help understanding your parental rights and legal options, please contact The McKeon Law Firm to set up a consultation with a member of our team. You can call our locations in Gaithersburg or Bethesda, MD at 301-417-9222 or 202-742-1800.