Five Ways Family Court Parties Can Make Progress In Their Cases During COVID-19

Your clients are likely looking to you as their attorneys to help them move forward in the midst of stay-at-home orders that make people feel stuck and worried. COVID-19 has brought many businesses to a halt, closed courts, and increased stress for people across the nation. This creates unique challenges for parties in the midst of separation and divorce, or co-parenting post-divorce. Below are FIVE ways your clients can move forward, make progress, and be less stressed without having to wait for stay-at-home orders to be lifted:

Mediate custody agreements: The gift of time… Years ago when a child was held back a grade in school due to academic lag or immaturity, it was called ‘staying back’ and came with a negative connotation. Many schools have changed that lingo to refer to repeating a grade as giving the child the ‘gift of time’ — time to get where they need to be academically and to mature. COVID-19 has created the gift of time for parties who cannot get into the courts; attorneys can help them use this time wisely. Perhaps clients who would have been less inclined to meet with a child psychologist specialized in custody schedules to discuss parenting plan options and reach agreement would be more willing to do so now. We facilitate healthy and effective communication between parties, and help them stay child-focused and envision what schedules could work best for their children. Our experience has been that a majority of parents who work with us to talk about schedules do come to an agreement. These sessions can easily be done in online video chat format. And, if this time results in agreement without having to go to court, that truly is a gift to parents and children who then don’t have to live with the stresses of litigation and the memory of hurtful things said during the process.

Complete psychological and custody evaluations: While people may think evaluations for use in their custody case have to be put on hold, that is not true! We are able to work on evaluations both in online formats and in the office. Many components of evaluations can be done online, to include client and collateral interviews and some psychological testing. As an essential business, we are also able to see clients in the office as needed. We are doing as much online as possible, but when clients need to be seen at the office we are sanitizing the office several times daily, providing hand sanitizer at check in to all clients, and maintaining physical distancing. Thus, we can work on and complete your client’s evaluations now, so they can be used immediately to settle or are ready to go when courts are back in session. Not sure what type of evaluation would be best for your case? Read: How Do I Choose Which Evaluation Is Best For Me For Family Court?

Therapy to address mental health issues: Luckily, psychotherapy is something that can easily and effectively be done online for all ages and all concerns! Research has shown teletherapy (also known as online therapy) to be as effective as in-office therapy, and in fact rural communities have been using teletherapy for over a decade with excellent results. Your clients who may be struggling with anxiety, stress, depression, anger management, substance abuse, trauma, etc., can work on these issues from the comfort of their own home. We have been providing individual, couples, and family therapy online for over 10 years, with children as young as age five, teens, and adults, and feedback from clients is that it works! Our online therapy platform is incredibly easy to use — we simply email the client a link, and there is no app to download, no account to set up or passwords needed; they simply click the link to join the session. All one needs is an Internet connection and a (fairly) quiet place for conversation. If interrupted for any reason, a video session can be easily paused and resumed. So no worries if a child comes into the room and asks for a snack!  ☺  Video teletherapy eliminates the need to travel to an office or sit in a waiting room, thereby saving time and money, enhancing privacy, and reducing exposure to germs. And as noted above, as an essential business, we can provide therapy in the office as needed (while sanitizing and maintaining physical distancing).

Start or continue with reunification therapy: Reunification therapy is a form of family therapy and lends itself very well to teletherapy formats. In fact, in the early stages it may even work better, as the ‘favored’ parent and/or anxious or resistant child tend to be less resistant to online family therapy, since the child is not immediately in the same physical room as the parent they have a rift with. In fact, we have used online sessions in reunification therapy before COVID-19 for this reason, and to provide therapy when family members are far apart geographically.

Improve co-parenting: Coaching or therapy for cooperative co-parenting or effective parallel parenting can help your clients create a positive post-divorce world for their children and themselves. We help parties learn how to make this relationship work well for everyone involved. We focus on effective communication, navigating differences in parenting styles and agreeing upon difficult topics, low-conflict joint decision-making, and moving beyond past hurt to forge an amicable co-parenting team for the benefit of the child (and the parents as well). Offered in various formats: 1-1 parent-clinician, both parents meeting together with the clinician, or psychoeducational formats. Again, these sessions are easily provided via online therapy (or in the office if needed).

Summary: In summary, even with talk that stay-at-home orders may extend through May, these weeks of stay-at-home time do not need to slow down your clients’ cases. In fact, engaging in one or more of these five areas above, your clients can actually move ahead and make progress during COVID-19.

Click to read more about our: Parenting Plan Assistance/Mediation, Custody Evaluations, and Other Evaluations for Use in Determining Custody, or more about The Benefits of Teletherapy, our Reunification Therapy approach, or options for improving Co-Parenting skills.