The COVID-19 pandemic has presented divorced or separated families with a whole new world of complications. In addition to the complexity of adhering to stay at home orders while honoring visitation agreements, parents are faced with new decisions. Co-parenting during this time requires parents to be on the same page when navigating matters of child safety to an entirely new degree. Parents must consider how socialization, travel, and interaction with the world will be handled. Parents must also come to agreements on school attendance and participation in recreational activities. Each case will have unique circumstances influencing the custody plan. However, the primary concern for any agreement is adhering to the best interests of the child.
Recommendations for Co-parenting During COVID-19
During the initial rise of stay-at-home orders and shutdowns, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers released guidelines to assist co-parents in making custody decisions. Parents are encouraged to continue following present court orders while adhering to all state and local orders. When making visitation decisions, it is recommended that parents consider information gathered from reliable news sources. Open and honest communication is a vital tool for co-parents as they navigate through uncertain times. For parents who struggle to make decisions together, a mediator or child custody lawyer can help to reconcile an agreement. Finally, parents should consider moving to virtual visitation arrangements and coming up with plans to make up for lost time at a later date.
Most courts maintain the recommendation to continue with standing child custody agreements as much as possible. It is crucial that both parents are on the same page regarding mask-wearing, social distancing, and school attendance. All agreements made between parents should be respected and negotiated as conditions change. Documenting established rules and boundaries can be a helpful tool for parents.
Considerations While Co-Parenting in a Pandemic
When negotiating the degree of custody between parents, consideration of each party’s unique circumstance can help to guide in decision making. Some things for parents to consider are:
- Homeschooling- One parent may be able to provide a more productive learning environment than the other. Factors to consider are internet accessibility, the technology available, workspaces that are conducive for learning, and parental work schedule.
- Public Contact- Parental career choice and the career choice of other household members are important considerations for child safety. If one household risks more exposure to the public, then it may be wise to limit the child’s time in that environment.
- Risk Groups- One household may have members that belong to COVID-19 high-risk groups. The child may also be at high risk. A more strict quarantine may be necessary for this circumstance, influencing a visitation plan.
- Social Opportunities- If one home has other children or safer outdoor play spaces, it may provide a more well-rounded environment to help lessen the impact quarantine has on a child’s social life.
Providing Consistency Amid Uncertainty
For some parents, a nesting situation may be ideal. When filing for divorce, many parents choose to consistently keep the child in one home while alternating time within the home between the two of them. In this circumstance, the parents would typically have a separate residence for living in during his or her “off time.” This provides the children with consistency and allows the parents to ensure that the child has a reduced risk of exposure by limiting travel.