E-Learning and Parental Rights
It is undeniable that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on us nationwide, and we can feel its effects in many aspects of our everyday life. One measure that is especially hard for parents is the mandated e-learning model, which is complicated because it seems things change weekly, if not daily. The State of Colorado has created a resource that may be helpful to you: click Here.
Parents may have expected some of the consequences of this shift to remote learning, such as the expense involved in setting up a study area at home and devoting time to supervision of schooling. Other things, however, have not been so foreseeable, such as the pandemic’s impact on visitation and custody agreements. COVID-19 and the Colorado Department of Health’s Protect our Neighbors initiative have already impacted how many divorced parents handle custody exchanges, and the shift to remote learning adds another layer of difficulty. One interesting story connects readers to an anecdotal story from a school psychologist: click here.
Does This Affect My Parental Rights?
The shift to an e-learning model does not, in and of itself, impact your parental rights. Your rights remain as stipulated in your court-ordered visitation and custody agreements. However, you may find that due to circumstances related to the pandemic generally — for instance, if you or your co-parent are a front-line worker, test positive for COVID-19, or experience unemployment or housing instability due to the pandemic. Or, due to the e-learning model specifically, you need to find ways to adapt to serve your child’s best interest.
Schools are often a significant component of custody agreements, as they are considered a neutral space, and are commonly identified as custody exchange spots. Additionally, school hours are generally used as a framework for custody agreements, using the language “before school” or “after school” to delegate responsibilities.
Advice for Adapting to E-Learning
It is crucial to prioritize the child’s best interests, which also means being honest about your needs and capabilities. It is recommended that e-learning routines are established early and kept as consistent and routine as possible across households. Talk to your child to learn if they have concerns or preferences regarding e-learning.
Suppose one parent is more capable of providing a quiet, supervised environment for e-learning and assuming the responsibilities of schooling; it may be worth temporarily adjusting the agreement to allow the child a more stable learning environment for the duration of the pandemic.
Temporary adjustments may be mutually agreed to without going to court. Importantly, talk to an attorney or get the agreement in writing, so that the other party cannot later claim that you made the decision unilaterally, which would be in violation of the custody agreement.
When developing your routine, you can contact your child’s school to confirm the e-learning schedule to determine new “school hours.” While on the phone, it’s an excellent time to ensure both you and your co-parent are listed as emergency contacts. You may also identify a new neutral location for custody exchanges, which can be as simple as a local store’s parking lot. Communication is vital, and both parents must have full access to the child’s educational records, assignments, and access to online learning portals.
Still Have Questions?
Please contact me if you have questions about how COVID-19 impacts your specific custody agreement. You may be concerned that you are dealing with a non-cooperative co-parent who is not acting in your child’s best interest. As an experienced Colorado family law attorney, I can review your questions and help you find solutions.