The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging for all parents. Many are struggling to work at home while caring for and even trying to homeschool their kids. Others have to find child care because their jobs require them to go in to work. Yet others are facing temporary and even permanent layoffs and considerable financial uncertainty.
Many divorced parents are dealing not only with the upheaval in their own life and job but that of their co-parent’s. The custody agreement they worked out may not have taken into consideration having their kids unexpectedly out of school for an extended period. They may be unable to make their child support payments because they’re not earning an income.
The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers recently released seven guidelines to help people co-parent during the pandemic.
Be healthy: Model the guidelines provided for washing hands, social distancing and other steps we can take to prevent the spread of the virus to your kids.
Be mindful: Answer your children’s questions honestly, but don’t instill panic. Limit how much news they see and hear.
Be compliant with your custody agreement and court orders: These are still in place. Don’t just ignore them. If you’re uncertain about something, talk with your attorney.
Be creative: Likely, your plans for spring break have changed. Maybe your co-parent is self-quarantining and doesn’t want to expose the kids or anyone else. Be sure that they can still see and talk with their other parent via Skype or FaceTime if they can’t be with them.
Be transparent: If you’ve been exposed to the virus or are feeling sick, tell your co-parent. Don’t endanger your kids or others because you don’t want to give up time with them.
Be generous: If your co-parent needs you to make some temporary adjustments, try to accommodate them. You’d want them to do the same for you.
Be understanding: For example, maybe your co-parent can’t make their full support payment for a time. As long as they’re doing the best they can, this is no time to threaten them with court action.
Your kids are likely already nervous. The last thing they need is their parents fighting. If you have questions or concerns about the changes that may be required to your custody, support and other agreements, your family law attorney can help you.