NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — COVID-19 is creating unique challenges for everyone, but for divorced or separated parents, it means extra complications.

No one child or family is the same.

SONYA JIN, MOTHER OF TWO

Sonya Jin is a mother to 10-year-old Harrison, and 12-year-old Parker.

She’s divorced and has custody of both kids, but every week and a half, they go to their dads.

“We’re keeping that consistent so they have a sense of normalcy for the most part so they don’t all of a sudden have another change,” she said.

Jin said it’s already a challenge being a divorced family, but co-parenting during the coronavirus is a different ballgame because there’s only so much you can control.

“You can only do what you can do,” she said. “Communicate with the other person so that they know what your expectation is and hope that they also share the same position.”

Family Law Attorney Leslie Copeland said Jin is doing it right.

What I do is encourage parents to work together to try to find solutions on their own.

LESLIE COPELAND, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY

Copeland said there’s an influx of calls from anxious parents worried about what to do with visitation during this health crisis.

“It’s just a very stressful time for people,” she said.

She even said some people are using the virus as a way to excuse their kids from seeing the other parent.

“It’s important for people to know that custody orders are court orders and they should be abided by,” Copeland said.

While that’s not necessarily the right way to go, Copeland said it’s crucial right now to keep the focus on the children and what’s best for them.

“If it’s not possible to have visitation, then let’s do lots of phone calls, and video, and try to make sure children are staying connected with both families as much as possible,” she said.

Which is exactly what Jin is doing in her own divided house — making sure she’s always putting her kids first in this already stressful situation.

“That’s what’s always been the case is to put your kids’ priorities over your own and it’s even more important right now,” Jin said. “You just have to figure out what works best for your family and each child because every child is so different.”

Jin said she knows how hard it can be right now for every parent, and she said her biggest advice is to make sure you are doing fun and creative things with your children during this time.

Below is more information about custody in the time of the coronavirus, according to Copeland:

Access to Courts:

• Courthouses are closed through May 1

• Judges are only holding hearings for emergency cases or are holding phone/video hearings

Custody Orders:

• Have to follow unless the parents agree otherwise or there is an emergency order from the Judge

• What I’ve seen so far is that Judges are sending kids for local visitation but not for out of state visitation (due to the travel risks involved and the higher rates of transmission in surrounding states)

• If you have concerns about visitation, you should first talk to the other parent and try to work something out. If you can’t, and you think it constitutes an emergency, then you can call a lawyer to file an emergency motion.

• If a stay-at-home order is issued, then I would expect visitation to be addressed in it, and if not, then I would expect our judges to issue direction to the attorneys about how the order will affect visitation.

Divorce Rates:

• Expected to rise after quarantine is lifted

• Bloomberg Business Week reported record-high numbers of divorce filings after quarantine was lifted in China, a 25% increase

• The answers as to why are anecdotal, but couples are under an unusual amount of stress.

• There is record unemployment and many couples are facing financial strain.

• They are also home together under stress, unable to leave or return to work, and have children underfoot.

• Either couples grow closer together, or further apart.

• We are still filing divorce cases now and uncontested divorces are being finalized. You do not have to wait for quarantine to be lifted to talk to an attorney or file for divorce.

• There will be a backlog of cases when things get back to normal. It is not too early to talk to a lawyer and start your case now, if you are able.

For more information about Leslie Copeland Law & Mediation, click here.