COVID-19 and Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support
On March 6, 2020, Governor Eric J. Holcomb declared a public health emergency in Indiana relating to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and on March 23, 2020, issued Executive Order 20-08 which, with some exceptions, requires all Hoosiers to stay in their homes to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Pursuant to Paragraphs 16(b) and (e) of the Executive Order, permitted essential travel includes the following: (1) traveling to care for minors and dependents; and (2) traveling required by court order, which would include transporting children pursuant to a custody or parenting time agreement.
On March 31, 2020 the Indiana Supreme Court issued a further order pertaining to custody, parenting time, and child support in light of the Indiana shut-down order. The Court clarified that existing court orders regarding custody and parenting time remain in place and should be followed. In order to interpret custody and parenting time orders, the school calendar as published at the start of the school year should control, even though the children are not currently in school. If any of the parties believe there is a reason to temporarily modify or change the terms of custody or parenting time during the COVID-19 pandemic, the parties may informally agree in writing to temporarily modify their existing order. If the parties cannot agree on a requested temporary modification, a party may file an emergency petition to modify the existing order.
In addition, although certain payment options may not be available to pay child support, the Indiana Supreme Court clarified that existing court orders regarding child support payments remain in place and should be followed. Child support payments can be made online, by telephone, by mail, and at other locations, as described on the Indiana Department of Child Services, Child Support Bureau website. Further, if circumstances arise where a party cannot make that party’s full (or any) child support payment as a result of COVID-19, that party may file an emergency petition to modify child support.
Ultimately, it is important to remember to be flexible and cooperative during this time and to act in the best interests and health of your children.