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As Life Inches Toward Normal, Can Co-Parents Adjust?

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Florida received good news this month: We’re ready to move on to Phase 2 of our re-opening plan. Though social distancing is still recommended, the maximum size of social gatherings has been increased to 50, and establishments including bars, gyms, and movie theaters will be allowed to open their doors again. Many restrictions on our public and commercial spaces remain, meaning we will have to adjust, once more, to a different lifestyle than we had before the pandemic.

While many people are understandably excited, co-parents may be wondering how this will affect them. As more people are asked to return to work (or offered jobs), they may have to reconsider their custody arrangement yet again to make sure their children are receiving enough time with each parent. Whether you and your partner mutually decided to adjust your custody arrangement at the beginning of the lockdown or not, here are some items to consider as we move into Phase 2.

Youth Education & Activities Are Open, but At Reduced Capacity

Many working parents send their kids to summer camps or other activities during the day as a form of childcare. As of Phase 2, these groups are once again allowed to operate, but it will look different. Classes are much smaller because children must remain socially distanced, and leaders/facilitators will have to take more steps to ensure sanitization and wellness. Unfortunately, this decrease in capacity means some parents will not be able to enroll their children in the usual activities.

At the same time, many childcare providers suffered ruinous financial losses during the shutdown. Parents expected to return to work as their companies re-open will lose their unemployment benefits if they turn down the job, even if they cannot find adequate childcare. Those who can work from home are encouraged to, but if they take on the majority of the parenting during the workweek, it might be difficult to meet parenting time agreements. Similarly, if you are used to child exchanges happening at the end of an activity or class, you may have to find a different answer.

Vacation Rentals and State Parks Are Still Under Restrictions

Summer vacations are important bonding times for kids and parents, but the pandemic has thrown many families’ plans into disarray. State parks have once again opened to day use, but campgrounds and other options for overnights are still closed. Vacation rentals are being evaluated on a county-by-county basis, and new cleaning requirements may result in your reservation being canceled or cut short.

Co-parents typically negotiate time like vacations and holidays in advance, which means you may have to re-visit the discussion if one or both of you is forced to change plans. Some parents may have already sacrificed time in exchange for a trip that can no longer happen. Whether you want to plan a “staycation” with your child(ren) or just change the dates, synchronizing calendars is never easy. Especially if you and your co-parent don’t always get along, it might be hard to find a solution you’re happy with.

Whatever You Do, Agreement Is Necessary

Florida courts made it clear at the beginning of the pandemic that co-parents were expected to abide by the custody arrangements they had unless they received a court order or were able to come to a mutual agreement on changes. Even if an adjustment seems like common sense to you, your co-parent may not agree for a variety of reasons. Both of you are likely under more stress than usual, meaning a request for compromise could lead to a blow-up.

If changes to your life have made your co-parenting agreement unsustainable and your partner isn’t willing to budge, our team is offering free consultations via phone, email, and videoconferencing. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to adapt in many ways, and as we re-open our economies, the simple solutions of the past may no longer be practical. Our attorneys can help you find a way to resolve issues with your co-parent, even if that means petitioning the courts to intervene. We know you only want the best for your children. That’s all we want, as well.

Call Owenby Law, P.A. if you’re struggling to make co-parenting work. We are available any time, day or night, at (904) 770-3141.