Family Law Experts Issue Recommendations for Co-Parenting During Pandemic

Lots of families are struggling with how to best protect and parent children as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, divorced parents may have additional concerns, such as “Is it safe to allow my children to travel to their other parent’s house for parenting time?,” “How can supervised parenting time continue if it was usually held at a restaurant?,” and “When is spring break, anyway?”

While each family may decide to approach these issues differently, the Oregon Statewide Family Law Advisory Committee (“SFLAC”) has issued recommendations for families who cannot reach their own agreements. Some common issues are addressed, such as:

  1. Definition of Spring Break, Summer Break/Vacation or Holidays: While the schools are closed, parenting time shall continue as if the children are still attending school in accordance with the school calendar of the relevant district. ‘Spring break,’ ‘summer break/vacation’ or other designated holidays, means the regularly calendared breaks/vacations or holidays in the school district where the children are attending school (or would attend school if they were school aged). The closure of the school for public health purposes will not be considered an extension of any break/vacation/holiday period or weekend.
  2. Parenting Time in Public Places: Governor Brown has forbidden all nonessential gatherings, regardless of size. If the parenting plan states that parenting time will occur in a public place, parenting time should continue at locations that are permitted under the health and safety guidelines for the state, such as a large park or nature hike. Public places where people routinely touch common contact surfaces (such as parks and play equipment) should be avoided. However, activities where parents and children can maintain social distancing and avoid such surfaces are encouraged. If that is not possible, then the parenting time should be conducted virtually via videoconferencing or by telephone.
  3. Governor’s Executive Orders regarding Travel: The Governor has issued executive orders that restrict travel except for essential activities, which generally include caring for minors, dependents and/or family members. Therefore, unless otherwise directed by the Governor or other executive order, the parties should continue to follow the parenting plan as written while such orders are in effect.
  4. Transparency: Unless the parties are restrained from communicating, parents are encouraged to communicate about precautions they are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19. A parent is not permitted to deny parenting time based upon the other parent’s unwillingness to discuss their precautionary measures taken, or belief that the other parent’s precautions are insufficient.

The full list can be found here: http://courts.oregon.gov/programs/family/sflac/SFLAC{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6}20Documents/SFLACGuidelineForParentsDuringCOVID19Pandemic.pdf. SFLAC is a panel of judges, trial court administrators, mediators and evaluators, attorneys, family court service providers, and representatives from various state agencies who advise the State Court Administrator on family law issues in the courts.

National groups The Association of Family Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) provided a joint statement last week with additional guidelines for co-parents. These can be found here: https://www.thecenterforfamilylaw.com/afcc-aaml. The consensus among professionals is that while parents should be mindful of protecting their children from infection and transmission of the disease, it is also important to continue following the parenting plan or other court orders unless doing so becomes impossible.

If you have additional questions about how to appropriately co-parent in this stressful and uncertain time we recommend that you reach out to a family law attorney.

Emily Clark Cuellar is a litigator at Samuels Yoelin Kantor. Her practice is centered around families, and her passion is helping families navigate all the various obstacles they may face. Her practice focuses on domestic relations and fiduciary and probate litigation.

Creative (and free!) Options When You Can’t Hit the Gym

We have a few free and fun ways to get moving and out of your head when you can’t get out of the house.

The recent Stay-at-Home order issued in Portland, Oregon has many of us adjusting to the new day to day life of remote work. It can be a hard balance when your work and home life all take place in the same building. Remember to take a few minutes for yourself and your mental wellness – stretch, or engage in a form of exercise you enjoy.

Though we are still able to go outside for walks and recreation (allowing for 6 feet of distance), Portland weather isn’t always so accommodating. If you’re in need of a creative way to move, but don’t have the space for an at home gym, we have a few suggestions.

Portland based BurnCycle, a high energy spin studio, is offering free access to home workouts and lead meditation. Find them here.

If you enjoy HIIT, strength training, boxing, yoga, there’s an app for that. Chris Hemsworth’s app, Centr, is currently offering six weeks of free memberships for new users. It also includes meal plans and guided meditations.

Don’t have any equipment? Keep It Cleaner is offering a free virtual gym with workouts on Wednesdays and Fridays. You can join via their Facebook page.

Annie Belcher, a Melbourne yoga teacher, has free audio yoga classes available for download on her website.

Orange Theory is even getting in on the virtual wave. They are sharing a new workout online every day. You might need equipment for some of the classes, but just a random 3-5kg item, or my personal favorite, a gallon of water, will do.

Daily Burn is a subscription platform with routines for yoga, running, and at-home HIIT workouts. They’re currently offering 60 free days of membership.

The App Store’s highest-rated yoga app, Down Dog, is completely free until April 1st. The offer is also extended to their other apps: Yoga for Beginners, HIIT, Barre, and 7 Minute Workout. For school teachers and health care workers, the app is free until July.

If you need more inspiration, MSN has a few more fun suggestions.

Congress Passes CARES Act, Adds Forgivable Loan Program for Small Businesses

Congress passes the CARES Act, by 96-0 vote. Adds forgivable loan program for small businesses.

Late in the evening on March 25th, the United States Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) by a vote of 96-0. The House passed the Act on Friday, March 27th. President Trump signed the Act into law a few hours later. While SamuelsLawBlog.com will provide additional details on the CARES Act in the coming days, here are additional details of the Act’s significant $349 billion expansion of the Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) Section 7(a) loan program:

Eligibility Requirements.

Small business and nonprofit organizations are eligible if they have not more that 500 employees (or the SBA’s applicable size standard for the industry, if higher). Independent contractors and other self-employed individuals are also eligible for loans.

Maximum Loan Amounts.

Business will be able to borrow the lesser of: (i) $10 million; or (ii) the business’s average monthly payroll costs during the prior year, times 2.5, plus any outstanding principal owed on SBA disaster loans entered into after January 31, 2020. For this purpose, payroll costs include salaries and wages (but excluding annual compensation to any individual in excess of $100,000), commissions, tips, health insurance premiums, retirement benefits, state and local taxes assessed on employee compensation, as well as vacation, parental, family medical or sick leave benefits. Qualified sick leave and family leave wages under the recently-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act are not to be included in the calculation of monthly payroll costs for purposes of this calculation.

Use of Loan Proceeds. 

Borrowers under this program can use the loan proceeds to cover costs for payroll (including sick, medical, and family leave, and health benefits), rent, mortgage interest payments (not principal), utilities, and interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before February 15, 2020.

Loan Terms.

The Act caps the maximum interest for these loans at 4 percent. If the loan is not forgiven (see below), the remaining loan balance will have a maturity of not more than 10 years. Additionally, the Act waives collateral and personal guarantee requirements under the 7(a) program.  Loan payments under this program can be deferred for at least six months and not more than a year.

Loan Forgiveness

Borrowers that receive loans under this program would be eligible, under certain circumstances, to have a portion of these loans forgiven. The total amount of loan forgiveness would not be allowed to exceed the amount of 7(a) loans granted by the CARES Act but would otherwise be equal to the amount of expenditures of the borrower made in the 8 weeks following the loan’s closing on payroll costs, including payroll costs for tipped workers in excess of their normal pay level, mortgage interest (not principal), rental payments, and utilities, in each instance for arrangements that were in place prior to February 15, 2020.

Reduction in Loan Forgiveness Amount.

The policy behind the loan forgiveness provisions is to encourage businesses to keep employees on the payroll. Therefore, the amount that can be forgiven is reduced proportionally by the reduction in employees as compared to a prior base period (i.e. at the election of the borrower, either: the period from February 15, 2019 to June 30, 2019, or the period from January 1, 2020 to February 29, 2020). The amount of loan forgiveness would also be further reduced for any reduction in wages to an employee beyond a 25{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} reduction in compensation compared to the prior year’s compensation. This would only apply to employees that earn not more than $100,000 on an annualized basis in any pay period. For employees that are laid off or that have their wages cut between February 15, 2020 and 30 days after passage of the Act, the borrower will not have to take those cuts into account if those employees are rehired or their wages are restored to prior levels by June 30, 2020.

Tax Free Loan Forgiveness.

Interestingly, the CARES Act also states that the amount of loan forgiveness provided under the Act is not included in the borrower’s income (i.e. the forgiveness is tax free!).

Timing of Loan Program.

The CARES Act allows the SBA to move quickly to approve loans under this program.  Once a lender receives an application for loan forgiveness, they have 60 days to issue a decision on the application.

Michael D. Walker is a business, tax and estate planning attorney who has worked with individuals and small to medium-sized businesses for nearly 30 years. A careful listener, Michael skillfully guides his clients to meet the wide variety of legal challenges they face in our current complex world.