The COVID-19 Pandemic is creating uncharted situations for everyone, including parents who are separated, divorced, or sharing custody of their children. Here are a few tips for keeping parenting time, custody agreements, and court orders in place while keeping your child’s well being a top priority.
1. Stay Healthy
Make sure you are complying with all local, state, and CDC guidelines. Model positive behaviors such as maintaining social distancing, wiping down objects and surfaces that are frequently touched, and frequent hand washing.
2. Stay Informed
Stay current with what’s happening while ensuring the information you are getting is from reliable sources. The social media rumor mill is running rampant right now so take an extra minute to make sure what you’re reading is accurate.
3. Stay Mindful
While it’s important to be honest with your children about how serious the pandemic is, it’s just as important to remain calm and not overreact. You’re children are watching you for cues on how to handle this, so showing them you believe everything will return to normal in time is key.
Be careful not to make careless comments that can be taken wrong in front of kids and don’t expose them to the endless 24/7 media coverage that is meant for adults. At the same time, make sure your child(ren) know they can ask questions and talk with you about any concerns they have. Just make sure the responses you are providing are truthful and age-appropriate.
4. Stay Compliant
It’s important to stay compliant with any custody agreements and court orders you and your co-parent have in place. Unless there is an immediate danger to the child such as them or someone within one of the households testing positive for COVID-19, custody agreements and court orders should continue to be followed.
If court orders and custody agreements aren’t being followed, make sure you are documenting all communications. While the courts most likely won’t address these immediately due to the shutdown, they will most likely take any deviations from them into consideration at future hearings.
5. Get Creative
At the same time, both parties need to anticipate some changes during this time. Some parents may be considered essential workers and asked to pick up extra hours while others may be out of work at no fault of their own. If co-parents are able to amicably come up with modified schedules to accommodate these situations and continue to keep the child(ren)’s best interest as a priority, the courts are happy to see this.
If a child isn’t able to visit a parent due to exposure risks get creative on ways to keep them connected such as setting up a time for FaceTime, sending cards, or sharing pictures with the other parent.
6. Be Transparent
During this time it’s important to be open and honest with your co-parent about things that can affect your child(ren) such as:
- If you or someone in your household have a job that increases their chances of exposure
- If you or someone in your household has come in close contact with someone who has had a confirmed positive COVID-19 test
- If you, someone in your household, or your child tests positive for COVID-19
- Any and all precautions being taken for the safety of your child
7. Be Kind
If one parent misses out on parenting time with the child, work together on ways for them to make up that time. Family law judges expect co-parents to provide reasonable accommodations whenever possible and will take into careful consideration any unreasonable actions and unwillingness to be flexible.
8. Be Understanding
Sadly, many parents will temporarily lose employment or will experience a decrease in income during this pandemic. For parents paying child support, communicate your situation with your co-parent and try your hardest to continue to pay something. For parents receiving payments, understand your co-parent has no control of the change in employment and income they are experiencing. Communication is key with parents being understanding of each other’s situations.
Times like this can provide a unique opportunity for co-parents to come together and commit to focusing on their child’s best interest. This pandemic will likely result in life-long memories for your child, including how their parents treated each other.
If you have any questions about co-parenting during this stressful time, the divorce attorneys at Family Matters Law Group are happy to help. We are working remotely during this time but are available for virtual consultations. Contact us today to learn more: 678-545-2118