The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time for parents and families. Parents are dealing with changing work dynamics, concerns about the health and safety of family members, and children stuck at home. For many children, this strange moment in time will leave vivid memories. They are attending school remotely, aren’t participating in their normal activities, and are dealing with the uncertainty just like their parents.
This time period is even more challenging for parents sharing custody and placement with former spouses and partners. Old conflicts might rise back up and new tensions might emerge. It is important for every child to know that both parents did everything they could to explain what is happening and to keep their child safe. These guidelines are designed to help you navigate these difficult circumstances. They are specifically for parents sharing joint custody, although they will help any parent deal with the challenges of co-parenting during a pandemic. The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers released Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Sharing Custody of Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic. These guidelines are designed to help you navigate these difficult circumstances. They are specifically for parents sharing joint custody, although they will help any parent deal with the challenges of co-parenting during a pandemic.
1. BE HEALTHY
Educate yourself on CDC, local and state guidelines so that you can model healthy behavior for your children. This includes frequent hand washing, wiping down surfaces, and maintaining social distancing. It also means that you should STAY INFORMED. Keep up to date on reliable media sources and avoid the rumor mill on social media.
2. BE MINDFUL
Maintaining a calm attitude can help you and your children make it through this challenging time. Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but keep in mind that everything will return to normal in time. Although you should stay informed, it is not helpful to anyone, especially children, to leave the news on all day long. Do your best to reduce anxiety and answer questions. Encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.
3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and custody agreements.
You should follow court orders regarding custody as closely as possible despite the unusual circumstances. Now is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Your custody agreement or court order is in place to help you avoid fights about sharing custody and placement. Follow the existing order or agreement as much as possible, and attempt to find ways to problem solve if part of the order no longer makes sense. For example, if exchanges are to take place at school, you will need to find a new location to exchange your children. Please read Enforcing Custody and Placement Orders During Coronavirus if your former spouse or partner is refusing to follow custody and placement orders.
4. BE FLEXIBLE AND CREATIVE
In the last couple weeks, your life and routines have likely changed dramatically. People are being advised to stay home, to avoid travel, and can no longer enjoy entertainment like theme parks and sporting events. Work schedules are changing, with some people having to work
longer hours and others working from home. Some people are working less or lost their jobs. Routines and plans will inevitably have to change. Try to be flexible about placement periods, while finding solutions that ensure each parent sees the child as much as possible. Whenever possible, encourage closeness with the parent who is not with a child by using more phone calls and services like FaceTime and Zoom. Even if you are apart, you can connect with your child by watching the same movie, reading the same book, or playing computer games.
5. BE TRANSPARENT
Unless there are safety concerns, you should keep your co-parent up to date with honest information about your child along with any safety or health concerns. If you are concerned about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, it is important for your co-parent to know. These concerns are likely to occur for millions of people. If this happens to you, it is important to work together to determine what you can do to protect your child from exposure. If a child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus, then you should inform the other parent as soon as possible.
6. BE GENEROUS
If a parent missed out on placement time, you should try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out as soon as possible. Some parents may miss out on weeks of time due to quarantine. However, that does not mean the parent missing out cannot continue to enjoy a meaningful relationship with the child. Be generous with remote contact and makeup placement time. Family law judges expect parents to make reasonable accommodations and they will likely frown on parents who are inflexible during these highly unusual circumstances.
7. BE UNDERSTANDING
For many families, money is going to be tight the next several months. The pandemic is expected to cause economic hardship and lost earnings for many, many parents. This includes parents paying and receiving child support, as well as maintenance. The paying parent should continue providing what they can, while the receiving parent should try be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.
Get Your Questions Regarding Sharing Custody During the Covid-19 Pandemic Answered
Probst Law Offices provides legal services to parents dealing with custody, placement, and child support issues. We can help you understand and enforce your rights. If you have questions about a custody order, exchange locations, modifying child support, or placement disputes, please contact our offices today for immediate assistance and a free initial consultation at 414-210-3135.