Sharing child custody with an ex-spouse can be difficult enough even when there are no major disagreements between you about medical or educational issues. It is rife with compromise even when there is no global pandemic going on. But the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent school closings have posed unprecedented challenges for parents, especially working parents, and with the new school year about to start, those challenges are coming to a head.
In New Jersey, divorced parents have both physical and legal custody arrangements. Physical custody determines which parent the child lives with the majority of the time. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, including matters of health care, education, and religious affiliation. If one parent has sole legal custody, it means that parent makes all the decisions pertaining to those matters. In the case of two fit parents, New Jersey family courts tend to favor arrangements where both parents share joint legal custody, meaning that both have equal input on these issues. It’s in the latter case where problems can arise when parents don’t see eye-to-eye.
Local public school districts in the state are in the process of deciding whether students will return to in-person classes this fall, attend class remotely via computer, or a hybrid of both. The issue has sparked controversy and debate across the state and country, with many families feeling strongly that their children should be in the classroom, and others feeling just as strongly that it’s unsafe to send their kids back to school while the disease is continuing to spread.