Couples actively pursuing a divorce or already divorced are faced with a new obstacle amidst the pandemic – executing co-parenting effectively. Establishing an effective co-parenting plan during a pandemic can be challenging with job losses, school closures, and other unforeseen events. There are many tips and tricks available that help parents further navigate how children fit into the divorce equation and how to work together to adapt to the new normal. It is important to consider that, in general, each parent is entitled to parenting time with the child. Lack of trust is usually present in dissolution cases, and there is likely no exception during a pandemic. Even with a lack of trust, parties need to work together as best they can to work through this difficult time. In a case of strong disagreement, parties may be left with no other alternative than to return to court. Before getting to this stage, below are some considerations to help parties maneuver this period of time.
Active Health Monitoring
When co-parenting during a pandemic, both homes must monitor every resident’s health, especially if parents are continuing to follow the prearranged parenting schedule. The health of the family as a whole relies on clear communication and responsible lifestyles. Parents are encouraged to share with each other any possible exposures to COVID-19, support social distancing practices, and effectively translate general advice to the children. Parents should also incorporate handwashing and sanitation stations into the household, so children are aware of the guidelines that need to be followed. Even though divorced parents are living apart, activities in and outside of the home can endanger members of the other household, making it incredibly important to share expectations and establish general safety measures for both families to follow.
In the interest of safety, it’s incredibly important that both parties set mutual boundaries. While tensions are running high and many are nervous about coming in contact with COVID-19, it’s encouraged to be transparent about each parent’s whereabouts, both with and without the child. Both parties should take time to discuss what is expected, what feels comfortable, and set boundaries. Meeting in the middle about expectations and nonessential trips will save a lot of stress and keep everyone safe.
Parenting Time schedule
It’s likely that co-parenting schedules have been reviewed and approved by a judge. Regardless, it’s vital to know that these guidelines still stand unless both parties agree to make changes. “Stay-at-home” government orders still allow parents to travel for exchanges of children. If both parties agree to amend a co-parenting arrangement during the pandemic, it’s recommended to have the new guidelines in writing and clearly establish new ways for the child to communicate with each parent.
Divorced parents that are co-parenting during the pandemic are encouraged to over-communicate about caring for children and plans. Along with setting clear boundaries, parents should update one another with outings, visits, activities, and any other relevant information. While this may seem overbearing or controlling, establishing a tight and coordinated co-parenting plan will help keep the whole family safe. There are many apps available that help manage communication which may be useful if parents have trouble communicating effectively. Additionally, if parents need help establishing healthy communication patterns, mediation l can help parents reach suitable solutions for both parties. May mediators are conducting mediation sessions via Zoom or some other electronic format.
Unexpected events can happen when least expected, but amid the pandemic, people throughout the United States are experiencing unemployment, schedule changes, daycare closures, and more. This can be stressful, as what was seemingly reasonable at one point isn’t so much anymore. Parents are encouraged to remain flexible and understanding, as many of these deviations are out of anyone’s control. For example, co-parenting schedules may need to change for a few weeks, or video calls may be more efficient than meeting for a drop-off. Maintaining clear communication and flexibility will make co-parenting and the pandemic less daunting for both parties.
Social distancing requirements bring a whole new obstacle to co-parenting, but it’s recommended to encourage the guidelines at all times. Parents are encouraged to get creative with exchanging children as there are many different ways to make it an enjoyable experience for all involved, especially during this stressful time. Children need a nurturing environment that’s structured and stable. Translating these qualities through co-parenting and working together to make it fun is a great way to strengthen the relationship between two parents and the children. Below are a few ideas to make drop-offs an adventure:
- Meet at a park
- One parent provides all transportation during this time
- Schedule a hike or bike ride and meet halfway with the co-parent
- Leave notes or tokens of encouragement
Prepare For the Long-Term and Proceed With Caution
At the end of the day, parents must realize that this difficult time will pass and working together is essential. If a divorce case is still being finalized, responses from each parent will likely have a substantial impact on the outcome of a co-parenting agreement, or custody case. Establishing early, clear communication and building a positive upfront co-parenting relationship will help families function better during the pandemic.
While the care of children is critical in a divorced relationship, parents are also recommended to monitor their own well-being. Paying attention to mental health during this stressful time and taking proper preventative measures for both children and parents, can increase stability during this unprecedented time. Families need to work together amid the pandemic to ensure all stay healthy and positive. If a significant dilemma or conflict occurs regarding the co-parenting agreement, at any time, it’s important to seek guidance from the family law attorney assigned to the case to provide further mediation.
This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.