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Divorced Parents: Spring Break Challenges During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Rich Harris

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, divorced parents face additional stress and uncertainty in navigating disputes with their exes. For example: What if your ex has been allocated “spring break” in your parenting agreement, but the spring break holiday has just been extended by your local school district for an indefinite time?

Good family law attorneys try to anticipate all sorts of eventualities when drafting co-parenting arrangements, but it’s fair to say that this pandemic is not a situation that anyone could have foreseen. At The Harris Law Firm, our child custody attorneys can help you review the terms of your parenting agreement and come to a positive solution.

How Do You Define Spring Break in a Parenting Agreement?

When faced with defining spring break, a divorced parent should first look to the plain language of their parenting agreement or custody order. In some cases, the language will define the period of the “break” with reference to specific dates on the calendar, or at least days of the week. If that is the case, such plain language will govern.

However, the majority of parenting agreements and custody orders do not reference specifics because most school districts in the U.S. vary their dates for spring break each year. This means that you and your ex-spouse are going to have to find another way to resolve any disputes about how long your kids will stay at the ex’s home. You should always consider what is reasonable and in the child’s best interest, though defining those terms in the context of your own disagreement may prove to be a challenge, especially if you are dealing with an angry or unreasonable ex.

So, if you are one of the folks in this situation – and there are likely many thousands of divorced couples like you – where do you turn? The good news is that you do have some options.

Using Alternative Dispute Resolution to Your Advantage

First, check to see if your parenting agreement or custody order has any kind of dispute resolution mechanism. In many cases, you may have the right to use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation to resolve your dispute. Sometimes, you can even pursue a process called “arbitration,” which typically is mediation followed by the opportunity to have a qualified family law neutral decide your dispute without having to go to court.

Avoiding Crowded Courts in Colorado

As COVID-19 continues to cause widespread court closures, finding alternative means to resolve family law disputes is a particularly good idea. In Colorado, for example, the Chief Justice just issued a public directive essentially closing all of the family law courts except for limited emergency matters until April 3, 2020. Once April 3 rolls around, many predict that there will be a backlog of pending family law hearings, or that the closure may be extended.

Thus, if you can reach an agreement with your ex to pursue mediation or arbitration with a qualified family law professional, or if your agreement calls for doing so, this could be an excellent option to reach a resolution far quicker and more cheaply than filing a motion and waiting until a family law judge can hear your case.

Do you have questions about your parenting agreement? Contact The Harris Law Firm at (303) 622-5502 today to discuss your needs with a caring attorney.

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