For divorced parents and separated families, co-parenting can be tough throughout the year. Now with the world going through the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, this brings its own challenges and stressors for families who are following child custody agreements.
As schools and daycares close and “stay at home” orders extended, it’s important that both parents come together to make a plan based on the best interests for their children. It can be a complicated time to co-parent, but it’s not impossible. For example, if one parent is an essential worker exposed to many people or potentially the virus, it’s a smart decision for the children to live with the other parent temporarily full time.
For many parents, it can be very hard to not see their children when they usually could. To create some normalcy for both the parent and child, it’s a good idea to talk on the phone or video chat often. The other parent can also come by and “visit” in a social distancing sort of way and see and talk to the children from a safe distance.
These are uncertain, unprecedented, and stressful times for most people throughout the world and parents need to work well together to help their children get through this time without creating any additional stress or worry — this is a time for parents to put differences aside and figure out what is best for the child(ren) until this pandemic has come to pass.
If neither parent is an essential worker, the parents can choose to stick to the normal co-parenting plan and just take the proper precautions and follow CDC guidelines (washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing, no touching the face, etc.) to stay safe. This way, each parent knows he/she is bringing the children to a safe environment. By keeping a normal, routine, and consistent, schedule, both the parents and children will feel more at ease.
If parents cannot agree on what’s best for the children during this time, legally, the parents need to try to abide by the court order that is currently in place for them that defines their visitation and custody schedule. You can reach out to a mediator by phone who was involved prior about your co-parenting plan to help you reach an agreement.
If the parents cannot agree on something that can pose as a great risk to the child, the parents may be able to get a hearing with the court via video chat. The judge would have to deem the risk very serious for him/her to change the current custody agreement.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its social distancing/quarantine guidelines are temporary. It’s best for everyone if the parents can make decisions that are best for the children’s mental states and safety and rise above their desires and bickering to make a temporary change in the co-parenting plan. Communication between the parents is crucial to navigating co-parenting through this hard time.
Also, both parents should talk to their children about COVD-19 in a way they will understand. Let them know what the risks are and what safety precautions need to be taken to stay safe, so the children will also understand why their schedule has to temporarily change. Be positive, calm and reassuring when you discuss this topic with them as your children will take your lead in how you react to the virus. Both parents should be available and make time to talk to their children when needed or necessary.
If you or your child get sick during this time, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have COVID-19. Many viruses have similar symptoms. Call a healthcare facility and let them know who is sick and what the symptoms are, and the medical professionals will determine if you need to come in and be tested for the virus.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts have released a set of guidelines for co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Be Healthy – Comply with all CDC, local, and state guidelines. Be a good role model with frequent hand washing, wiping down surfaces, practice social distancing, and stay informed with the facts and avoid rumors.
2. Be Mindful – Remain calm and reassure your child(ren) that life will get back to normal.
3. Be Compliant – Follow the rules of the court orders and custody agreements, as close as possible.
4. Be Creative – Do your best to stay compliant, but change the plan as needed as some parents may have to work more or have lost a job. If one parent now has the children for longer, make sure you give them access to the other parent through video chats or phone calls.
5. Be Transparent – Let the other parent know if you think you or the child(ren) have been exposed to the virus or have been sick. Discuss self-quarantining if you are worried about exposure. Talk about steps to take to protect your child(ren).
6. Be Generous – Try to provide makeup time if one parent is missing out during this time.
7. Be Understanding – These are financially hard times for many. If one parent cannot afford the child support, try to offer what you can during this time. The receiving parent should be accommodating considering these difficult circumstances.
Need a Family Lawyer in Jacksonville, FL?
It’s best for you and the other parent come to an agreement during this time, even if no one is crazy about the plan – it is what is best for the children. If you cannot figure out a new co-parenting plan, reach out to us at the Dorsey Law Firm.
We can create changes in writing to your custody agreement if you’re agreeing to different terms, especially if you think one parent might take advantage of this new plan. We will write up the new plan and include a stipulation that this plan has an end date and it will be filed when the courts are open.
This pandemic will end, and life will return to normal. Try your best to be calm, patient, and understanding during this time.
Many things feel out of control right now. It’s essential to remember that this hardship, no matter how long it lasts, will eventually end.
William J. Dorsey is a family law attorney and understands each divorce has a unique parenting plan. Give us a call and we can help you put together a new, temporary plan, if needed.
As a Jacksonville divorce attorney, with more than 35 years of experience in the state of Florida, Dorsey knows Florida divorce law and how to apply it to get his clients the best possible outcome. He guides his clients through the entire process.
If you are considering a new co-parenting plan, our team would be happy to help you learn more about the process in Florida. By hiring a divorce attorney, you’re laying the groundwork for a better result.
William J. Dorsey founded the Dorsey Law Firm in 1975 and has practiced family law and tried numerous trials throughout Florida in state and federal courts.
To request your consultation with The Dorsey Law Firm’s Jacksonville Law Office or if you have any questions, call 904-346-3883 or click our Jacksonville Divorce Attorney page for more information.