During a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, family becomes more important than ever, especially for children whose schedules have been disrupted by long-term school closures and the cancellation of other activities. Parents who are divorced or live apart for other reasons know the importance of maintaining healthy communication through difficult situations. Though this situation is unlike any other, some of the skills developed through previous discussions of custody and visitation arrangements might contribute to everyone’s well-being.
With quarantines, the closing of many businesses and the ever-present health threat, conversations about parenting issues among former partners should focus on:
- Safety — No matter where you live or what your relationship is like with your ex, both parents’ primary focus must be on their child’s safety. A parent’s occupation, travel between homes, living environments and others who might reside with a mother or father all could increase a young person’s exposure to the virus. This might mean hard decisions and tough conversations, but the determining factor should always be the health of your child and the people around him or her.
- Flexibility — Strong parenting plans set forth fair, clear terms regarding custody and visitation. Each side should know their rights and understand the consequences if they don’t fulfill their obligations. Though well-crafted agreements address predictable contingencies, it’s likely that your order does not account for a situation where all “nonessential” activity is shut down for weeks or months. As a parent, seeing your son or daughter is essential however, and states have differed as to whether custody arrangements override a stay-at-home directive. Even if you believe the law is on your side, finding an open court could be very difficult. Unlike almost any other circumstance, this pandemic presents a parenting challenge that must justify temporarily breaking from the established custody framework.
- Technology — Using FaceTime, Skype or Zoom to maintain frequent, meaningful contact can help get parents and children through these difficult times. If it becomes necessary to consult with an attorney or engage in a conversation before a mediator, you can also take advantage of technology to do so.
Whether your best solution involves online visits, preparations for extra visitation time when the pandemic eases, or negotiations for a temporary parenting plan modification, a knowledgeable family law attorney can advise you on strategies that suit your circumstances and needs while protecting your children.