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Covid-19 Co-parenting and Divorce: Challenges and Opportunities

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Even at the best of times, co-parenting can be a challenge for families of separation and divorce. Now Covid-19 has thrown a monkey wrench into even the most amicable of co-parenting relationships. Suddenly you and your ex are faced with a whole new set of challenges when it comes to keeping your kids safe and keeping your cool with one another. 

Despite the difficulty families are having in finding a new normal, this time actually has some unique opportunities along with its challenges. We here at Family Matters Law Group want to continue to support you in navigating these new, unfamiliar areas of co-parenting.

 

Starting Points for Coping Strategies 

The coping strategies you choose will be influenced by your starting point. If you’re starting off with a cooperative co-parenting relationship, you’ll have a leg up on getting along, which can make it easier to address the additional challenges now facing you both. However, there’s a chance that your co-parenting relationship is in a less harmonious category. If you’re not getting along well with your ex, your co-parenting mode may be conflicted or parallel

This means that in addition to facing the new challenges posed by co-parenting during Covid-19, you’ll also need to continue working on smoothing out the pre-existing problems around raising your children in tandem that you may be experiencing with your ex. 

In a conflicted mode, two parents are working at cross purposes; frequently arguing over matters including money, how to parent the kids, or other issues perhaps leftover from your former relationship. If you’re in the parallel mode it means your kids are living in a disjointed co-parenting arrangement where there’s little to no overlap in their environments. They will lack a sense of cohesion and continuity, which is less than ideal for them and makes co-parenting in a way that will maximize their sense of security and stability more difficult. 

 

Opportunities for Cooperation

However, even if you’re starting off from a less than ideal co-parenting situation, facing a crisis such as Covid-19 can help you pull together with your ex to ensure the well-being of your kids. You both have the added incentive to make things work to protect their health and safety. This is a rare opportunity to transform a conflicted or a parallel co-parenting mode into a cooperative one. 

Under normal conditions, the only thing that might change the status quo is your child suffering a sudden illness or injury. Now there is an exterior threat that can make it possible for you to close ranks as co-parents to make sure everyone in your family gets through this time without getting ill with Covid-19. Following the guidelines set forth by health experts, scientists, and your local elected officials can be a starting point of agreement between parents. 

 

Managing Visitation Schedule Disruptions

Whether you’re already parenting cooperatively, or working toward it, there are a set of decisions you’ll have to make regarding which household may be the safest for your kids. For example, if one parent is a frontline, or other essential worker, their household would obviously be less safe than the other parents’. 

One household may have benefits particularly helpful during orders to stay home, such as a higher quality internet connection for homeschooling, remote learning, or homework help. One household may have greater proximity to school, particularly helpful if your children need to be driven there to avoid the risks of taking the school bus. Once you reach an agreement about where your children will spend the bulk of their time, you can then deal with the other aspects such as coping with your feelings about being separated if you end up being the non-custodial parent during Covid-19. 

There is an understandable level of anxiety around not having control over who your children come into contact with if you’re the parent temporarily living separately from them. This will require your ex to agree to follow the necessary guidelines to ensure the safety of your children. Being on the same page with your ex will reduce conflict and potential health risks to everyone. 

 

Handling Separation

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You’ll have to find ways to cope with physical distancing. Technology is a helpful tool in easing the pangs of separation. Daily phone calls, texts, chats, and video visits may lessen some of the hardest aspects of being apart from your children. Don’t be afraid to get creative. 

  • Do a drive-by, socially distanced, visit if you can. 
  • Order a dinner delivery for your kids. 
  • Share mealtime together over Zoom or Facebook messenger. 
  • Send them a funny Tik Tok or YouTube video.

It’s important to just find ways to connect. The methods are less important than the end results. You ultimately just want to make sure they feel loved and connected to you. It’s a two-way street and anything you do to stay a part of their daily lives will also help you cope with missing them.

 

Coping with Cohabitation

What if you’re still living in the same household as your ex while in the midst of an ongoing separation or divorce? If you’re following shelter-in-place orders this can be a very stressful situation. One way to deal with it is to set up guidelines and follow schedules to minimize the time you need to spend in the communal areas of the household. Your agreed upon primary motivation should be to avoid arguing in front of your children. 

If conflict is unavoidable, try to go to a part of the home with the most privacy, and argue out of earshot of your children, or request they go to their rooms and listen to music, watch a video, or play a game with headphones on. If your children are old enough to be left alone safely for a bit of time, go for a walk or a drive with your ex, and discuss any issues outside the house. 

No matter what co-parenting challenges you're experiencing during Covid-19 just remember, this crisis will not last forever. Conditions will improve, and the new normal will start to resemble more familiar times. In the meantime, seizing the opportunities available during this crisis can have positive benefits to your co-parenting that will continue in the future. 

Being patient, staying calm, and putting the wellbeing of your children first will ensure your family makes it through this time with flying colors. If you’re in Henry county or the greater Atlanta area and need an ally to help you navigate these uncharted waters of separation, divorce, and co-parenting in the time of Covid-19, Family Matters Law Group will be with you every step of the way!

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