Guidelines for Co-Parents During the Pandemic
1. BE HEALTHY.
Comply with all CDC and local and state guidelines and model good behavior for your children with intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. This also means to be informed. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid social media.
2. BE MINDFUL.
Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal in time. Encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at an age-appropriate level.
3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and custody agreements.
As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The custody agreement or court order exists to prevent endless arguing over the details of timesharing. In some jurisdictions, there are even standing orders mandating that, if schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as though school was still in session.
4. BE CREATIVE.
At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to fly, and vacation attractions such as amusement parks, museums, and entertainment venues are closing all over the US and the world. Also, some parents will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis, and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games, and FaceTime or Skype.
5. BE TRANSPARENT.
Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Certainly, both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.
6. BE GENEROUS.
Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made.
7. BE UNDERSTANDING.
There is no doubt that the pandemic will present economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something, even if it can’t be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.