Judge: Families struggling with child support, custody during Covid crisis

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WIDESPREAD furloughs and social distancing guidelines are complicating child support and custody agreements between separated parents in the CNMI.

CNMI Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio said an increasing number of parents are bringing their Covid-caused issues to court.

“I’m getting custodial parents coming to court saying, ‘I need to increase child support, because I’ve been laid off,’” she told Variety.

“And then I have non-custodial parents coming in the same case saying, ‘Can you please lower child support? Because I’ve been laid off.’”

Judge Kim-Tenorio said “there’s no easy answer” when both parents have lost their jobs and “still have children who don’t eat any less.”

“What can I do?” she asked. “I can’t squeeze water from a stone.”

“I’m hoping that with all the efforts by our government leaders, we will get the stimulus checks out and the [Pandemic Unemployment Assistance] program going and so forth.”

She added that parents are also struggling to find ways to satisfy child custody and visitation agreements while upholding the government’s social distancing guidelines.

“You’re basically bringing circles together and the conduit is the child,” Judge Kim-Tenorio said.

She expressed concerns about the stress that parents and children may suffer in attempting to mitigate this risk, and suggested that non-custodial parents perform their visits virtually over apps like Zoom, WhatsApp, and Facebook messenger instead of in-person.

“If you really, really want to see your child, go to their home, but just stand outside your car,” she advised. “Tell them to come to the front door and just wave.”

 

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