Are you divorced or separated and find yourself facing uncertainty with your co-parent? Our Sean McAllister gives seven tips for parents who are divorced or separated and sharing custody of children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
#1 – Stay informed.
We are currently living in an environment that is unprecedented and the modern world has yet to experience. New information is being released by the day, hour, and minute. Stay in touch with the most reliable news and media sources and avoid sensational stories that may be posted on social media. If you have an attorney, they will be able to provide you with up to date information on court closures and filing deadlines.
#2 – Stay healthy.
Stay up to date with CDC and state and local health recommendations on how to best protect your family. Model good behavior for your children by following these guidelines and modifying your behavior to include proper social distancing and thorough hand washing. If there’s a failure to follow these guidelines and rules, the other parent may complain and could lead to potential motions filed in family court.
#3 – Be attentive to your child’s social, emotional, and physical needs.
Have honest and caring conversations with your children about the current environment but keep calm and assure them that both parents will make decisions that are in their best interest. Avoid speaking negatively of the other parent or discussing any disagreements. Encourage them to ask questions and provide them with answers that are age-appropriate. If your child is in therapy, check to see if the therapist is offering telehealth services so that they can continue to receive support.
#4 – Comply with court orders and custody agreements.
Despite the unusual circumstances, the court and judges will expect parents to follow the guidelines laid out in their formal agreements. Read your custody order or agreement and if you have any questions please be sure to contact an attorney for legal advice. When there is disagreement, the terms of the court order or custody agreement will be upheld.
#5 – Communicate honestly.
Be transparent with your co-parent and provide honest information about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus. Try your best to communicate and agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.
#6 – Be considerate of the other parent.
Consider temporary modifications of parenting plans when you can and try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if possible. Schedule daily phone calls or “virtual visits” through tools such as Facetime, Skype, or Zoom. Family law judges expect parents to make reasonable accommodations when possible and will take serious concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in this unusual environment.
#7 – Try to be understanding.
This pandemic has brought insecurity and hardship for most of America. For many parents, this has meant a loss or reduction in earnings for both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. While this does not remove the responsibilities that are outlined in court orders, the payor or obligor (the parent who is paying) should try to provide something even if it can’t be the full amount. The payee or obligee (the parent who is receiving payments) should try their best to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.
Co-parenting in a “normal” environment can provide its struggles and this current dynamic certainly provides its own challenges. This is a time when parents should try to communicate effectively and work together to make accommodations that are in the best interests of the children. For many children, they are out of their typical routines and can feel insecure or uncertain. By providing a solid foundation and home and cooperating together, they will be able to shine through your positive example.
If you or someone you know is seeking legal advice, contact us or give us a call at 985-778-0220 today to schedule your consultation. Our attorneys will take the time to understand your needs and evaluate your options.