The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers published seven guidelines for parents with a parenting plan schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic. They provide helpful reminders for anyone trying to co-parent and keep their children safe during this unusual time.
1. Be Healthy
Follow all the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and model good behavior for your children. This includes washing your hands for 20 seconds (find a fun song for you and your children to sing together), wiping down surfaces and frequently touched objects, and maintaining a safe social distance. Find more prevention tips on the CDC website. Being healthy also includes taking care of your mental health. Stay informed through reliable sources but avoid tuning in to the news 24/7.
2. Be Mindful
Be honest with your children about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude. Avoid exposing your children to endless media coverage intended for adults. But encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns. Answer them truthfully at an age-appropriate level.
3. Be Compliant
There is a lot of uncertainty in our day-to-day lives. But parenting plans and court orders still apply. In some jurisdictions, there are standing orders mandating that, despite schools being closed, these plans should remain in force as though school was still in session. Now is not the time to haggle over the details of timesharing.
4. Be Creative
The unusual circumstances will certainly bring change. The CDC recommends that people avoid flying and vacationing, many attractions are closed, and any Spring Break travel plans are out the window. On top of changing vacation plans, many parents are experiencing drastic changes in their work schedules. Some parents may have to work extra to aid in the crisis, while others may be laid off or experiencing a reduced schedule. Plans will inevitably change during this time. Be creative with your co-parent. If they are not going to be able to see your children for a time, consider FaceTime or Skype so that they can read your children a book, watch a movie together, or share a game.
5. Be Transparent
Provide honest and timely information with your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to COVID-19 that you or your children have experienced. Try to agree on what steps you each will take the protect your children from exposure. If you or your children exhibit any possible symptoms of the virus, inform your co-parent immediately and remain in communication.
6. Be Generous
If possible, provide makeup time to your co-parent who missed out on time with your children. Judges expect parents to act reasonably when they can, especially in highly unusual circumstances. Also encourage your children to remain connected with their other parent by phone, email, or video.
7. Be Understanding
The pandemic has already caused economic hardships for many, and the number of lost earnings is only expected to rise. This will impact parents, both those who pay child support and those who receive it. If you are paying child support, try to provide what you can, even if it is not the full amount. See the Oregon DOJ website and Washington DSHS website for information about modifying your child support obligation. If you are receiving child support, try to be accommodating and understanding. The current circumstances are very challenging for everyone, but they are also temporary.
Now is the time for you and your co-parent to come together and focus on what is best for your children. The strange days and events of this pandemic will be lasting memories that shape your children. Every child should know and remember that their parents worked together and did everything they could to provide them safety and comfort during these uncertain times.
If you need advice about co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic, our attorneys are here to help. Schedule a phone or video consultation today.