How to Avoid IRA Early Withdrawal Penalties in a Divorce

You and your spouse have contributed to your IRA throughout the course of your marriage, planning to spend your golden years together. Now that you’re divorcing, you are both entitled to part of that money. You may be wondering about avoiding the tax penalty imposed when you take the money out before age 59.5.

Learn more about avoiding tax penalties when splitting your IRA, and to discuss your divorce claim in greater detail, call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083.

Splitting Your IRA During Divorce

An IRA is a tax-deferred account. If you withdraw from it before age 59.5, you must pay a 10% penalty. Unfortunately, it’s not always up to you whether or not you access your IRA early. If you divorce, you don’t necessarily get a choice to divide or not divide the account. The IRS does allow you to split your IRA without incurring an unnecessary penalty.

Include it in Your Property Settlement

To avoid the penalty, the division of the IRA settlement must be included in your divorce decree or settlement agreement. This is not something you can do under the table—it must all be specifically laid out in your agreement. The settlement must include the amount you are transferring to your ex-spouse if you are not transferring the entire amount to them. It must also lay out which account you are transferring the money to and the financial institution.

Rolling Over Your Ex-Spouse’s Portion

You can go about this in one of two ways. You can roll your ex-partner’s portion into their existing IRA account or into a new IRA account they open for this specific purpose. When money moves directly from an IRA in your name to an IRA in their name, there are no penalties incurred by either party.

If your ex-partner does not have an IRA account and does not want to open one at the present moment, you can have their portion transferred to a checking or savings account.

If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Move Their Portion into a Retirement Plan

You may worry about incurring a penalty if your ex-spouse has their part of the IRA rolled into a checking account, rather than another IRA. However, they have 60 days after the money is deposited to move it into a retirement amount of their choosing. If they do not transfer it in 60 days, it is taxed as regular income. If they are not 59.5 or older at that point, they must pay a 10% penalty. You do not have to pay any penalty.

There are some circumstances in which the 10% penalty is not assessed, including:

  • If the partner receiving the money is disabled
  • If the money is used for tuition for the recipient or one of their dependents
  • If they use up to $10,000 of it for a down payment on a home

If one of these circumstances applies, they will still need to pay regular income taxes on the money.

Handling Retirement Accounts and Other Divorce Issues

This issue highlights the importance of having a reliable and experienced divorce attorney. Attempting to negotiate and handle these issues on your own can be costly, both in terms of giving up more than you need to and accidentally setting yourself up for unexpected tax consequences.

Some people attempt to DIY their own divorce case to save money and avoid a contentious divorce. However, hiring an attorney isn’t only for adversarial or contested divorces. An attorney helps you avoid unintended consequences of property division, child support, and child custody agreements. Even when both parties are on the same side and agree on the basics of the divorce case, it is crucial to have your agreement looked over by an attorney who represents your best interests.

Get the Support You Need from Coumanis & York

Whether you’re just getting started in the divorce process or you’re just evaluating your options, it’s never too early to consult a divorce attorney and start making a plan. We can help you navigate this difficult time and plan for your future. To get started, give our team a call at 251-990-3083 or reach out to us online. We look forward to helping you.

Divorce and Your Children’s College Funding

For many divorcing couples, their children’s college funding is a priority during negotiations. It makes sense—college, even if your children attend public institutions, can be expensive. It’s often prohibitively expensive for children who don’t get parental support.

If you’re determined to have your ex-partner pay for all or part of your children’s college education after a divorce, it’s important to choose an attorney with strong negotiating skills. The team at Coumanis & York can help you navigate this challenging time while fighting for the outcomes that matter to you. Schedule a consultation now by calling us at 251-990-3083.

Alabama Divorce Orders

In Alabama, you have to negotiate college payments while you figure out the divorce settlement. If you wait until your child is ready to attend college, you’ve missed the window. This is a confusing point for many people due to changes in case law. In 1989, the court ruled on a case where a high-earning father refused to pay for his child’s college costs due to the child’s attitude toward him. In this case, the court ruled that he had to pay for his child’s college expenses.

This determined how cases were decided until 2013. In late 2013, the Alabama Supreme Court set a new legal precedent by ruling that parents cannot be forced to pay educational costs after the child is 19 years old. Because of this ruling, you absolutely must negotiate college payments during the divorce process.

Determining a Fair Split

It’s important to approach negotiations with a fair and unbiased view of you and your ex-partner’s finances. If you both earn a substantial amount of money, it may be reasonable for each of you to pay 50% of college expenses. This is true even if there is a difference in your income levels, as long as you both earn more than enough to meet your needs and wants.

However, in many divorce cases where college costs arise as an issue, there is not an equal split of income. If your divorce involves one parent with a high-income career and one parent who worked as a homemaker, asking the homemaker parent to pay half of college expenses would be unfair. If your marriage is one with serious earning discrepancies, you may be able to fight for the higher-earning parent to pay for all or most of your children’s college expenses.

Negotiating for What You Want

Just like anything else in a divorce, you might have to give something to get something. If your children’s college fund is a top priority for you, you may need to negotiate elsewhere. Again, this largely comes down to the specifics of your marriage and your divorce case.

If there is a massive earning disparity in your marriage, you may not have to sacrifice much to have your children’s college expenses covered. After all, it is in both parents’ best interests to have their children succeed in higher education. If you are on similar earning levels, though, you’ll have a harder time getting the other party to cover more than half of college expenses. In this situation, you may need to be flexible on child support, asset division, or spousal support (if applicable).

How an Attorney Can Help

This is just one reason you need to work with an experienced divorce attorney. There are so many moving parts in a divorce—the division of debts, division of assets, spousal support, child support, child custody, child college expenses, and more—that getting everything to line up is a challenge. If you try to negotiate your own divorce, you could be weakening your own post-divorce financial situation. Many divorce choices come with tax implications, and if you don’t understand them before you sign the divorce decree, you may struggle in the years ahead.

Furthermore, you may not know how much leverage you have. Many people approach divorce negotiations assuming that they have little to offer, which leads them to give up far more than they need to. By working with an experienced divorce attorney, you can work toward a fairer divorce settlement that meets your needs.

Discuss Your Options with Coumanis & York

Ready to get started and plan for your life after divorce? Let’s set up a time to talk about where you are and what you hope to get from your divorce. Call our team at 251-431-7272 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

How to Divorce a Millionaire

Divorce is stressful, anxiety-inducing, and painful—and that’s in the best-case scenario. When you’re divorcing someone with substantial assets, however, the stakes are even higher. You’re preparing to split from someone who can likely outspend you legally, has more knowledge of their assets than you do, and is determined to protect those assets.

When divorcing a millionaire, you need to be proactive. Choose an attorney who is willing to fight aggressively for your best interests so you can have a fresh start. To find out how Coumanis & York can help you during this difficult time, call us at 251-990-3083 to schedule a consultation.

Choose an Attorney Who Focuses on High Net Worth Divorce

You should never try to DIY a divorce case, a fact that’s even more important when you’re divorcing someone with lots of money. The choices you make during a divorce can affect you financially for years to come, and once you’ve agreed to something in a court order, it can be difficult to change it.

Furthermore, high net worth divorces often have different issues and challenges than standard divorce cases. You need an attorney with extensive experience handling these types of cases if you want to be on equal footing with your ex-partner.

Stock Options and Restricted Stock Awards

When there’s a lot of money at stake in a divorce, it’s likely that the money is spread across a variety of assets and financial holding. This is one of the benefits of working with a high net worth divorce attorney; they have an in-depth understanding of high-value assets and the complications of dividing these assets. Furthermore, they also often have connections with financial planners and forensic accountants who can further break down this information in a way that is useful to you.

Those who hold executive positions are often rewarded with stock options or restricted stock awards. Stock options allow an employee to buy stocks in the future based on the price on the day options were granted.

For example, if an employee were granted stock options on a day when the stock was $30, they might wait one to five years for the vesting period to pass. At that point, they would be able to buy stocks—now worth $200—for $30 each, significantly boosting their profit. However, this income is taxed at a high level, and you need to be prepared for that if you get stock options in a divorce.

Restricted stock awards are another popular type of employee compensation. Employees receive the stocks upfront but cannot sell them until the shares vest. Vesting schedules vary from company to company, and the specific vesting schedule of your spouse’s stocks can influence how the stocks are divided in divorce.

Executive Compensation

If your spouse is a C-level executive, much of their income is likely tied up in their job performance and their company’s stock performance. While they do receive an annual salary, the majority of their income may come from stocks, bonuses, and retirement funds. If you make decisions regarding asset division, spousal support, and child support based only on your ex-partner’s base salary, you are likely leaving a lot of money on the table.

Each party in a divorce is required to disclose fully their assets and debts. But when one individual is compensated in so many different ways, it’s easy for one or two types of compensation to fall by the wayside.

That’s one reason you need a high net worth divorce attorney who can use a forensic accountant to track every last type of income your spouse has. You have likely made significant sacrifices to help your ex-partner thrive in their career—you deserve compensation for those sacrifices, not to start over with nothing after a divorce.

Choose Coumanis & York for Your Divorce Needs

Going up against a high earner in a divorce case can be intimidating, but if you have the right legal team on your side, you can rest easy knowing that your case is in good hands. To discuss the details of your divorce and make a plan going forward, contact Coumanis & York today. You can call us at 251-990-3083 or contact us online to set up a consultation. We look forward to serving you!

Signs Your Spouse May Be Hiding Marital Assets

One topic that frequently causes disputes in a divorce is the division of assets. In some cases, both parties feel entitled to more than they really deserve. In others, one party is willing to divide assets fairly but the other is not.

Asset division is such a touchy topic that some people turn to hiding assets to keep what they feel is truly theirs. If you suspect your spouse of hiding assets during a divorce, keep an eye out for these red flags. For more personalized assistance with your divorce, call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083.

You Have No Access to Financial Records or Accounts

This may be a red flag if you have never had access to certain financial accounts or you have suddenly been locked out of them. When one person in a relationship has all of the financial data and the other has none, there is a lot of opportunity for assets to be hidden or transferred. Even if you have historically never had access to financial accounts, you obviously need to access them during a divorce. If your spouse refuses, this could be a major red flag.

You Are Suddenly Unable to Access QuickBooks, Mint, or Other Programs

Programs like Mint can be helpful in tracking your budget and seeing how money moves between accounts. Because it can easily link up multiple accounts, someone who is hiding assets is likely to get rid of these programs or unlink their accounts from them. The less of a paper trail you have about where their money is going, the easier it is for them to hide assets during the divorce.

Your Lifestyle Changes, But Your Spouse’s Does Not

Divorce can be expensive, and so is supporting two households. If your partner suddenly cuts you off from access to marital funds without adjusting their lifestyle at all, it’s possible that they have hidden assets that you know nothing about. For example, they may have a secret stream of income or hidden bank account that only they can access.

Property Begins Disappearing Without Explanation

Furniture, vehicles, antiques, and other items might start to disappear from your home without any explanation from your ex-partner. This often means that they are either selling them for cash and hiding the cash, or “giving” them to friends and family members. Of course, in this case, they aren’t actually giving the items away. They are simply having their loved ones hold on to them until the divorce is final, at which point they will take them back. This is why you should have a list of all of the valuable items you own, where they are, and how much they’re worth. It makes it easier to identify when items go missing.

Trips to Other Countries

It is hard to hide money in American bank accounts because of our strict banking laws. However, many other countries are more lax about their banking procedures and protocols. If your spouse starts making random trips to countries that are known to be financial havens for Americans, they could be hiding assets that they plan on retrieving after the divorce is final.

Unexplained Accounts or Credit Cards

You may find out about these accounts when your spouse starts receiving mail about their new accounts or if you live in a state that requires creditors to tell spouses about their partner’s new lines of credit. Your ex could be racking up debt or shuffling money to other accounts to hide it during the divorce.

Reported Loss of Income or Business Income

Your spouse could be falsely reporting business losses to avoid paying spousal support during the divorce. If they own a business and report lower profits or even file for bankruptcy, they may hope to keep you from getting any of the business during the divorce. This is particularly alarming if, as stated above, they appear to be maintaining the same standard of living even after you two have separated.

Contact Coumanis & York for the Divorce Representation You Deserve

What do you do if you believe your spouse is hiding assets? You need to confide in a trusted divorce attorney. Your attorney can help you uncover assets and may even bring in a forensic accountant to ensure that everything comes to light. Our team is here to guide you through this difficult time. Schedule a meeting now by calling us at 251-990-3083 or getting in touch with our team online.

What Can and Cannot Be Included in a Prenuptial Agreement?

If a wedding is on your horizon, you may be considering a prenuptial agreement. While many people believe that prenuptial agreements are only necessary for those with massive wealth or assets, a prenup can actually be a helpful tool for couples of all income levels. Although no one plans to divorce when they get married, it is impossible to know the future—and for that reason, a prenuptial agreement can give you peace of mind and help you protect your assets.

Wondering what you can and cannot include in your prenuptial agreement? Let us help you through the process. Call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083 to set up a consultation now.

Alimony and Spousal Support

You can add provisions for alimony or spousal support to your prenuptial agreement. This is helpful if there is a significant earning disparity, since it allows the lower-earning partner to feel secure regardless of what happens in the future. You may also want to put limits on alimony in the prenuptial agreement. For example, you might say that alimony is only guaranteed if the marriage lasts a certain amount of time.

Division of Assets and Debts

This can be an extremely contentious topic during divorce, and it’s often much easier for couples to make these decisions ahead of time. You may want to specify which assets belong to you as a couple and which assets belong to each of you individually. You could also outline how future assets are to be divided. For example, if one partner is the breadwinner and one partner does not work, you may choose to split future retirement earnings based on a percentage of total income.

Don’t forget to consider each individual’s debts while outlining your prenuptial agreement. This is particularly important if one or both individuals have substantial student loan debt. You may also want to account for mortgages on homes brought into the marriage, credit card debt, and medical debt.

Decisions Regarding Family Property

If one spouse owns part of a family business, you may want to include it in your prenuptial agreement. Doing so ensures that the business would stay with the family after divorce, rather than being split between the spouses. You can take the same approach with inheritances, antiques, and family heirlooms.

Estate Plan Details

Prenuptial agreements aren’t just useful during divorce. They can also be beneficial if one partner passes away during the course of the marriage. Property division is much easier with a prenuptial agreement, as it eliminates the risk of property being mis-categorized and distributed incorrectly.

So far, everything discussed is what can be included in a prenuptial agreement. Next, let’s take a look at what you cannot include in a prenuptial agreement:

Child Custody

You cannot dictate child custody terms in a prenuptial agreement. Child custody, while typically agreed on by the parents, is only approved by the judge when it is in the children’s best interests. Since child custody pertains to the children’s rights, not just the parents’ rights, it cannot be decided in a prenuptial agreement.

Child Support

On the same note, child support cannot be limited or waived in a prenuptial agreement. People may try to waive child support in a prenup by offering more alimony or stating that each parent much cover the children’s costs when they are in their care. However, child support is the child’s right, not the parents’ right, and it is determined based on the child’s best interests. For that reason, parents cannot waive child support in a prenuptial agreement.

Plan for Your Future Now with Coumanis & York

A prenuptial agreement can be difficult to discuss with your future spouse, but it is also an excellent way to protect your future and lay the groundwork for a strong marriage. If you’re considering a prenuptial agreement, we can help. Take the first step now and learn more about your options by setting up a consultation. Give us a call at 251-990-3038 or get in touch with us online to schedule a meeting and discuss your legal needs.

Is My Spouse Entitled to Half My Business During a Divorce?

While some divorces are straightforward, easy to negotiate, and fast, others are bound to be more complex. Divorces in which one or both parties have ownership in a business are likely to be fairly challenging as marital property laws in Alabama may give the non-business owner the rights to some business assets.

What should you do if you own a business and you are getting divorced? Learn more about your options, and for more personalized advice, call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083 to set up a consultation.

How Assets Are Split in Alabama

Before you know what is likely to happen to your business in a divorce, it’s important to understand property division laws in Alabama. Alabama is not a community property state in which all assets are split 50/50 and divided between the couple. Alabama is an equitable distribution state, which means that assets gained during the marriage or used for the benefit of the marriage should be split in a fair and equitable way.

This does not often result in an exact 50/50 split once you take into consideration factors like:

  • Each partner’s income
  • Each partner’s earning capacity
  • Existing assets
  • Health of each partner
  • Contributions to the family

These and other factors determine how property is divided in a divorce in Alabama. Individual assets, which primarily includes those acquired before the marriage, stay with the individual after divorce. Marital assets, which includes those acquired during the marriage or those used for the benefit of both partners, are subject to equitable distribution.

Is a Business an Individual or Shared Asset?

Whether or not a business is split largely comes down to whether it is considered an individual asset or a shared asset. For a business to be an individual asset, it must be owned and operated by only one partner in the marriage. The money from the business must not have been used to enrich the marriage and the other partner must not have helped the business function or grow. This setup is relatively rare, and as a result, businesses are often considered marital property. It is likely that your business may be subject to division during your marriage.

How Business Division Could Look in Your Divorce

Since Alabama law does not require that property be split down the middle during a divorce, every divorce proceeding will approach business division in a slightly different way. This is great news if you are worried about paying out your partner for their role in your business or losing some ownership of your business. If your partner has substantially fewer assets than you and limited income, you may have to give up a significant portion of your assets to maintain equitable distribution. However, you can negotiate in a way that allows you to keep your business.

Compromising to Keep Your Business

A fair divorce settlement comes down to compromise, and compromise is especially important when you have a business at stake. First, you have to look at what you have and what you’re willing to give up. If keeping your business is your top priority, what are you willing to give your ex-partner to ensure that your business stays with you? In general, a business is divided so that the non-managing partner gets their share in cash. It’s rare that an ex-partner wants to have any role in managing or owning the business.

This is where it’s helpful to talk to your attorney and brainstorm some options. If your ex-partner wants to be paid out for their share of the business because they have limited income, how else can you meet that need without losing your business? You may agree to higher alimony payments, a longer duration of alimony payments, the loss of another asset, or the loss of a piece of real estate.

Let Coumanis & York Help You Through Your Divorce

Every divorce is unique, and you deserve dependable representation to help you through this process. At Coumanis & York, we have helped numerous individuals secure a fair divorce settlement and get ready for their new life. To learn more about how we can help you, call us at 251-990-3038 or get in touch with us online.

Important Tax Considerations During a Divorce

When you decide to get divorced, it seems like the tough decisions never stop coming. Unfortunately, this is also true when it comes to your final divorce settlement and taxes. A number of decisions you make regarding your divorce could impact your taxes for better or for worse. Before you agree to finalizing any aspect of the divorce settlement, make sure you know how your taxes will be affected.

Having your own legal representation in a divorce is crucial. To discuss your case in greater detail with our experienced legal team, call Coumanis & York at 251-260-3927 to set up a consultation.

Your Filing Status

If you are not yet legally divorced by the time the end of the year rolls around, you will need to decide which filing status you and your ex-partner will use. Even if your divorce is finalized before you file your taxes, you are still considered married if you aren’t divorced by December 31. In some cases, choosing married filing separately is the ideal choice. This is especially true if your tax return offsets your spouse’s tax liability, since you probably don’t want your tax return subsidizing your ex-partner’s life. However, in general, filing married jointly is the best financial option. This, too, may come with repercussions.

Liability for Returns

This ties in closely to the first item on this list. If you and your ex choose to file jointly, you are both liable for all of the information on that return. That means that if your ex-partner lies on their tax return or doesn’t provide documentation, you are just as criminally liable as them. If you don’t trust them or have any reason to believe they might cut corners, it might be worth the extra cost to file separately.

The Child Tax Credit

Generally, the child tax credit stays with the person who has the child most of the time. If time is split 50/50, this may mean switching off years. Furthermore, there are some situations in which the non-custodial parent may take the tax credit. This should all be decided as part of the divorce negotiations.

Property Transfers

Depending on how property is split up, you may trigger different tax situations. In general, property transfers done because of divorce don’t affect taxation. There are exceptions, though, and you should discuss your best option with your attorney.

Retirement Funds

Many people choose not to split up retirement accounts during divorce, simply because of the complications of transferring them and figuring out how they affect taxes. To transfer part or all of a retirement account, you need a QDRO from the court. This limits tax consequences. Going outside the recommended route could lead to penalties.

Assets That Are Sold

If you and your ex-partner choose to sell assets and split the proceeds rather than give the actual asset to one party, you need to look at how that could affect taxes. Consider, for example, selling a vacation home. If the home is sold and the proceeds go to you, you may get hit with a capital gains tax. This may make your divorce settlement less valuable than you think it is. This means it may also give you more leverage when it comes to negotiations.

Spousal Support

Alimony payments are no longer a taxable/tax-deductible item since the federal tax law changes at the beginning of 2019. This means it does not positively or negatively impact the taxes of the giver or the receiver. However, in many situations, the higher-earning partner might agree to give up more in assets to avoid paying alimony. This may leave the party receiving alimony with unexpected tax consequences. For that reason, you should know exactly what you are giving up if you don’t pursue alimony and how that decision may affect you.

Prepare for Your Divorce with Coumanis & York

Divorce is stressful at best, and things can often get very messy. No matter what kind of divorce you’re anticipating, you need your own legal representation. Divorce represents a fresh start, and you don’t want to be hindered by mistakes made during the divorce process. To make the best decisions for yourself and your future, get in touch with Coumanis & York today. Call us at 251-260-3927 or contact us online to set up a consultation.

Taking Control of Your Finances During a Divorce

Divorce takes a toll on your mental health, your stability, and your finances. Some forget to take care of their finances during a divorce, assuming that there’s no point to it when everything is in free fall. However, this is actually the best time to take control of your finances and use them to prepare for a new stage of your life.

If you’re getting divorced and you’re not sure how to protect yourself throughout this process, let us help. Call the team at Coumanis & York at 251-260-3927.

Create a Brutally Realistic Budget

This isn’t the time to be overly optimistic about what your future will look like. You need to be incredibly honest while looking at your budget and considering what you can spend, especially if you’re leaving the family home and you need to figure out how much housing you can afford. After creating a budget that accounts for monthly bills and necessary expenses, add in periodic expenses.

Don’t forget car registration, vehicle repairs, subscriptions, school fees, and other expenses that you still have to budget for. You don’t want to start out life as a single person with more bills than you can handle because of a budgeting error.

Establish New Accounts

In many cases, simply removing your ex-partner from a bank account or credit card isn’t enough. You should go one step further and establish entirely new accounts. Even though banks shouldn’t grant access to those listed on the account, smooth-talking ex-partners have been known to gain access by saying that they were removed because of a clerical error or by overriding security questions.

Make Sure Your Documentation is in Order

You should begin this step as soon as possible once you’ve made the decision to divorce. Get copies of bank statements, retirement account statements, tax returns, insurance policies, and other financial documents. Put them in a safe place away from the marital home. You may need these to start changing beneficiaries and double-checking spending after you leave the marriage. If you worry about your spouse finding or destroying the documents, consider making a digital backup to a cloud-based service.

Prepare for the Worst

There are a lot of unknowns in divorce, especially when it comes to your finances. Until all of the paperwork is signed and the debts are paid, anything could change. Rather than planning for the best-case scenario where you get to keep the assets you want and divvy up the debts in a fair way, plan for the worst. Assume that you will lose access to some assets and that you’ll take a larger portion of the debt than expected. This allows you to make a cautious, conservative plan. If things go your way and you end up in a better situation, you will have extra funds and assets at your disposal.

Hold Off on Major Changes

Divorce has a way of making you want something new. Maybe you want to start investing aggressively, get a brand-new car, or buy a vacation home. Take a deep breath and hold off on any major financial decisions for a while. Your mind is likely not in an ideal state during divorce, and you want to wait on those decisions until you can think them through clearly.

Contact an Attorney

An attorney is one of the best resources you can have during divorce. Preparing your finances for the future isn’t helpful if you’re doing so based on false assumptions about what will happen during your divorce. Your attorney can take a long, hard look at your finances, the history of your marriage, and what the likely outcomes of your divorce are. From there, you can make practical plans that will help you create the life you have always wanted.

Take the First Step Toward a Healthy Divorce with Coumanis & York

If your marriage is ending and you’re not sure how to protect yourself and your assets, let Coumanis & York help. Our team has extensive experience with all types of divorces, including amicable, contentious, and high-asset divorces. Let us help you with your divorce. To schedule a consultation, give us a call at 251-260-3927 or reach out to us online.

Holiday Custody Issues During COVID-19

In case holiday custody struggles weren’t already hard enough, 2020 brought us COVID-19. COVID-19 has highlighted serious disagreements between co-parents, whether they disagree on the severity of COVID-19, how best to keep their children safe from it, or their role in limiting its spread.

At the holidays, when many people gather in multi-family celebrations, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is even higher. What do you do if your co-parent doesn’t take steps to protect your child from COVID-19 or your coparent thinks they have the right to keep your child from you because of the pandemic?

These are complex issues with no clear-cut answers. Learn more about holiday custody issues and for more personalized advice, contact Coumanis & York at 251-260-3927.

Don’t Stop Following Your Custody Agreement

If you are considering keeping your child at home because of unsafe holiday arrangements at your co-parent’s house, do not do so without a change in the custody agreement or written confirmation from your co-parent. You simply do not have the unilateral right to change custody arrangements without the approval of your co-parent or the court.

Recognize Risk Factors and Take Note of Them

Regardless of which side of the dispute you are on, take note of the risk factors of COVID-19 spread and try to understand your co-parent’s point of view. If you believe they are too cavalier about the disease and take unnecessary risks, jot those down and provide examples. You may use this when you speak to your lawyer. If you think your co-parent is being too harsh about their COVID-19 restrictions and you believe they may withhold visitation because of it, note the steps you take to keep your child safe and how you plan to protect them over the holidays.

Collaboration is Ideal

As is the case with virtually any custody dispute, collaboration is the best way to go whenever possible. No matter how different your points of view may be, it comes down to you both wanting what is best for your children. You may have different ideas about how to get there, but the goal is the same.

Approach any discussions with your ex-partner with this in mind. Rather than going after them about how they are hurting you or how they are endangering your child, approach them with the sense that you are in this together and you can work out an agreement that benefits everyone. In many cases, simply being acknowledged and included in the conversation is enough to create space for an agreement.

Look for Alternatives

In some cases, compromise simply isn’t possible. Consider a case where the custodial parent is immunocompromised and truly cannot risk getting COVID-19 because their risk of dying is so high. In this case, a court order for temporary custody changes may be required. However, try to be flexible and find ways for your child to spend time with loved ones in a safe manner. Virtual visitation is an option. You may also want to “trade” the holidays for extended visitation when the pandemic has ended.

How Your Lawyer Can Help

No matter where you are in this process or what side you fall on, you need to discuss it with your attorney. Your attorney can review your custody agreement and help you find options. They may help you draft a letter to your co-parent asking for cooperation or assistance, and if that fails, they can help you pursue legal remedies.

This is a difficult time, and it is particularly challenging for co-parents who have to navigate custody and visitation. Try to extend grace to yourself and your co-parent, but do not back down from what is best for your child.

Turn to Coumanis & York for Help with Your Custody Case

Are you facing serious custody issues over COVID-19? You aren’t alone. Parents all over the country are in the same situation you are in. Coumanis & York is here to help you fight for what is right. To schedule a consultation, call our team at 251-260-3927 or contact us online. We are ready to go to work for you!