Coronavirus Heightens Fears as well as Tensions Between Parents in Custody and Child Visitation Disputes
Lester Barclay, a Leading Family Law Attorney, Offers Tips to Keep Parents Calm and Children Safe
Prominent family law attorney Lester Barclay is accustomed to receiving a few calls over the weekend from parents in a bitter child visitation dispute. However, this past weekend has been unlike any other. Because of fears and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus (Covid-19), his firm, the Barclay Law Group, with offices in the Loop and Bronzeville, is receiving calls and emails around the clock about child custody and visitation issues.
A parent lives in a home and refuses to turn the children over to the other parent for a normal weekend visit because that parent lives in an apartment complex, where the fear is the children are more at risk due to potential exposure in hallways and elevators. Another parent is denied seeing their children because the mode of transportation is a rideshare and the other parent is concerned about the cleanliness and if appropriate sanitizing methods have been used. A parent has traveled by car from another state prepared to receive the children for Spring Break, but the other parent is denying the visitation. Another parent refuses to place the child on a plane for the scheduled visit with the other parent. As a result of the virus, more parents are working from home. Yet parents who must travel to work fear they are losing ground in the custody battle, because the other parent provides a safer option than leaving the children with a third party.
“Covid-19 has created a serious family strain,” said Barclay, who over the past 30 years has built a sterling national reputation for providing legal counsel to some very famous individuals in the middle of custody battles. Among his clients are former NBA All-Star Dwayne Wade and NFL Hall of Famer Richard Dent.
With the stress and uncertainties surrounding Covid-19, Barclay said the pandemic has the potential to pull families that have been at war closer if they put the safety and stability of their children first. “Parents are trying to figure this out,” Barclay said. “The circumstances are without precedence, and these uncharted waters.”
Helping families avoid such tensions is what led Barclay a few years ago to author the book, “The African-American Guide to Divorce & Drama: Breaking Up Without Breaking Down.” The 277-page book is the first-ever comprehensive guide on divorce tailored specifically for African Americans. Seeing firsthand how the pandemic is pulling at families of all races, Barclay is offering 12 tips to help them come to some peaceful resolution when court is not in session.
- Be Flexible
- Stay informed with the latest information about Covid-19
- Put children’s safety and stability first
- Don’t be driven by fear and push the panic button
- Side with the option where there is less potential exposure to the children
- Assure children they will be safe in both home environments
- Keep ego in check
- Chose parental over third-party care
- Don’t use the pandemic as a one-upmanship on the other parent
- Negotiate makeup time for lost visitation days
- When compromise and negotiations fail, follow the court order
- If negotiations fail, don’t take matters into your own hands; contact attorneys or law enforcement authorities to resolve the dispute
“The court order is the court order in terms of schedule,” Barclay said. “Now, the courts are closed unless there are extreme emergencies. There is no one to render a final decision. My advice for the parents is to be flexible. If one parent is available and the other parent is not, it makes more sense in case there is a critical medical need for a parent to be with the children than a third party. You might say if I give an inch, the other parent wants to take a yard, but this is not a time for one-upmanship.”
Barclay says parents must be flexible because with a crisis such as Covid-19, no one is certain about the outcome.
“Today you are healthy, but tomorrow the virus might catch up with you,” Barclay said. “You are looking at the other parent as not being fully equipped to protect the children or handle an emergency, but tomorrow it might reach your door.”
Barclay said it is always important to remember that the children come first.
“You have to have flexibility, even if you do not like the person. You must be willing to work with them through this,” Barclay said. “This crisis presents a good opportunity for parents who have not gotten along very well to work together and for the children to see their parents working together on their behalf during this crisis. This can be the foundation for a newfound relationship between the parents. You want to assure your children that they will be alright, and that both parents are pulling together and taking all precautionary measures to ensure the children are safe in both homes.”