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Effective Co-Parenting During Coronavirus Shutdowns

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Even the most amicable divorcees may be facing new squabbles due to COVID-19 and its impact on co-parenting agreements. On the other hand, for couples who had trouble coming to any agreement, the virus may seem like a handy excuse to change things up. Whether you’re dealing with terse conversations or passive-aggressive text messages, we advise you to remember one thing first and foremost: Whatever you do during this time should be in the best interests of your child, no matter what your exasperated co-parent might say.

Because of the many changes to our day-to-day lives, you may have no choice but to adjust your custody arrangement. Here are some aspects to consider as you hash out a coronavirus plan to works for you.

Adjusting Visitation Arrangements

Families work out unique visitation schedules to meet their needs, but typically these arrangements account for a child being in school or daycare. They also integrate both parents’ work schedules—which may have changed drastically whether they are an essential worker or a work-from-homer. If you or your partner are facing different needs at this time, you may want to negotiate a temporary arrangement until schools and companies start up again. On the flip side, if you choose not to change your visitation schedule, that means everything should stay the same—even “after-school” handoffs.

Remember, your child(ren) are also stressed during this time, which means it’s important they receive parental support. Ideally, this will come from both parents. Keep this in mind as you discuss the best way to handle custody for the next few weeks.

Disrupted Work Schedules

As a heartbreaking effect of this pandemic, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Others have seen their hours decrease. Many of us in non-essential industries are now working from home, while employees in essential jobs may be required to take longer shifts with fewer days off.

Any changes to your visitation schedule should reflect these disparities. For example, if both parents are working from home, it would make sense to split time in the same ratio as you always have. However, if one is a medical worker and the other has been laid off, it makes sense for the partner who has more time and energy to take responsibility for the bulk of the parenting.

Infection Risk

Because COVID-19 can be dangerous to people of any age, many parents are worried about their children’s health. This is especially true for those who work in front-line positions. However, your fears about your child being infected may not be enough reason to ask for a temporary moratorium on your partner’s visitation rights. Especially because children tend to have milder cases, it’s important to balance our anxieties with real-world data.

Of course, the situation may be different for parents of immunocompromised children or for duos where one parent has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. For the rest of us, it’s good to remember that while we’re all making sacrifices, essential workers are making more than most. Asking them to give up the right to time with their children during this stressful period may be an unfair request.

Digital Visitation

If your children’s time with one of you has decreased, the parent with primary custody can help relieve the imbalance using technology. Thankfully, most of us have access to video chat platforms, which can provide bonding time despite physical distance. If you’re having trouble finding an equitable arrangement, consider how a weekly Skype visit or nightly phone calls could help a busy parent stay connected. These arrangements also benefit children by showing that, even though things are different right now, both of their parents love and support them

Child Support Payments

Many people’s financial situation changed unexpectedly as the novel coronavirus hit our country. People in previously secure jobs found themselves facing layoffs or pay cuts. If you or your co-parent have experienced drastic financial changes due to this crisis, adjusting expectations regarding child support can help relieve pressure. For instance, consider:

  • Have you kept your job while your co-parent, who previously paid child support, no longer has a steady income?
  • Are you struggling financially after a layoff and unsure whether you can make your payment?
  • Have both of you lost jobs and are accordingly facing high levels of financial stress?

Reducing payment amounts, extending due dates, or even pausing your child support arrangements temporarily can help stressed co-parents find a way forward during this time. Though it may not be perfect—and it likely won’t be—the important thing is that both of you are doing what you can for your child.

Consistent Social Distancing Rules

Children have already seen routines slip away as extracurriculars were put on hold and schools closed. This has likely increased their stress and, especially when you’re trying to tend to your normal household needs and their distance schooling arrangement, can make things harder on you as well. The more parents coordinate to set rules and schedules, the easier this adjustment will be for their children.

Most Americans are taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously, but you and your co-parent should discuss exactly what is and is not allowed. Can the two of you go out to a daily walk around the park if your child doesn’t use the playground equipment? Can they come to the store with you, or should you shop before picking the kids up? Children, especially younger ones, may not be able to understand what is happening and why things have changed. The more stability you can offer between households, the easier each of you will find it to enforce rules.

Do You Need Help with a Co-Parenting Dispute Due to Coronavirus Pressures?

The stress and uncertainty of this time are affecting all of us, and it’s okay to need help. Especially if you feel your partner is trying to take advantage of the situation, you should reach out to discuss their actions and formulate a response. While the stress of legal proceedings is the last thing we want for any of you during this time, unfortunately, it may be necessary for extreme situations. Together, we may be able to negotiate a temporary change with your partner. If this does not work, we can and will advocate for you in front of a judge.

To meet social distancing rules, our firm has switched to offering consultations by phone, email, and video. We are available 24/7 to accept your calls and schedule consultations.

None of us planned for co-parenting during such an extreme situation, and changes to all of our lives have made some arrangements hard to maintain. If you are looking for guidance, call us at (904) 770-3141 or reach out online for a free initial consultation.