The Georgia Family Law Attorneys at Marple Rubin Family Law are here to help you navigate back-to-school co-parenting obstacles caused by COVID-19.
The pandemic has inflicted a myriad of challenges upon parents around the world. In Georgia and many other states, families need to decide if their children will go to school this fall or remain home for another semester of homeschooling. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and state school Superintendent Richard Woods have been encouraging schools to open in-person. However, opinions of the matter are virtually split in the middle. According to the AJC, a survey by Forsyth County Schools north of Atlanta found 49% of the more than 8,000 respondents — most of them parents but some students and staff — “not at all comfortable” sending kids to elementary school. What if you and your co-parent disagree with how to handle school this fall?
Which Parent Gets the Final Say?
“Final say” is determined by your custody agreement or parenting plan and what the official documents say about decisions regarding your child’s education. In comparison to other states, Georgia parenting plans will have one parent be the final decision-maker regarding education, non-emergency healthcare, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing, so there should not be a stand off as to who makes the call. The decision should objectively fall to the parent with education decision-making authority. Of course, that parent is likely obligated to consult in good faith with the other parent before exercising his or her final decision-making authority on the issue. It is important to check with your Georgia Family Attorney on state-specific laws, especially if you are misled to rely on an article written for residents of another state.
What about private school or daycare?
Parents are still able to take advantage of childcare options like daycare or private school, especially if this was already the pre-pandemic routine. In case of conflict, the disagreeing individual would have to provide evidence that the provider in question is exposing your child to COVID-19. In contrast to public schools, most private childcare facilities and schools can afford to expense top of the line protective measures, so it would be hard to prove any risks.
In certain circumstances, a parent could be unemployed or financially struggling due to COVID-19. Arguments about who will pay for childcare costs are likely to surface. If the parties’ child support obligations do not otherwise spell out private school, then unless the primary custodial parent modifies the child support provision that parent (presumably the one receiving child support) will be responsible for private school expenses if the parties do not agree otherwise. Depending on the agreement, work-related child care provisions should not cover what is really private school when there is a public school option. In a nutshell, until a parent consults a Georgia Family Law Attorney to modify previously signed custody agreements, each party is required to pay all amounts outlined in the parenting plan or final divorce order. Regardless of unemployment, you can petition the court to take legal action if they simply stop paying. If these conflicts do occur please be mindful of how your children will perceive them. Try to be courteous, kind, and understanding. The negative emotions you are experiencing are temporary. The degree to which a child is affected by display of your negative emotions is permanent.
What if my ex does not agree to help with homeschooling?
Both parents are responsible for fulfilling childcare duties during their outlined custody time. You cannot restrict already established custody if one parent refuses to help homeschool. Upon consulting your Georgia Family Law Attorney, they may be able to help you take your case to court so you can request temporary custody modifications so you can ensure that your child completes required schoolwork. Furthermore, if you can provide enough evidence to support that your ex is not following proper social distancing or recommended health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, a judge might approve reduction of their parenting time or subject your ex to particular restrictions to ensure the safety of your children.
The expert attorneys at Marple Rubin Family Law are highly experienced with child custody modifications. Schedule a consultation through marplerubin.com or call us (770-796-4000) so we can navigate you through the complexities of child custody and co-parenting during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read about our new partner, Katie Leonard, here.