Every parent is in uncharted territory when it comes to parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parents going through a separation or divorce and those parents following a court ordered parenting time schedule have an added layer of complexity and uncertainty. While there are no correct answers for every situation, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts have published guidelines to follow during the pandemic:
- Be healthy. Follow the recommendations and restrictions of your child’s school district, local and state governments, and the CDC. Stay informed through reliable media sources. Do not rely solely on social media.
- Be mindful. While you should be informed, keep in mind that this pandemic and your response effects your child. Do not leave the news on all day. Encourage questions and provide age-appropriate answers to the best of your ability.
- Be compliant. Even during a pandemic, your court order still governs parenting time and custody. Avoid rewriting the order or creating even more disputes over parenting time and simply follow the terms of the Court order.
- Be creative. Of course, in this unprecedented situation, it is reasonable to keep in mind that things have changed. Everyone is being asked to avoid everyday locations, including school. Likewise, one parent may be working a full-time job from home while the other parent might have reduced hours or be unemployed. Take stock of all circumstances and adjust your expectations and plans accordingly.
- Be transparent. In order to be creative, you must be open and honest about what is going on with you and your child. If you or your child becomes ill, make sure the other parent is fully informed of treatment plans and timelines. Full transparency is needed more than ever during this time of uncertainty.
- Be generous. If one parent missed out on parenting time due to illness or other circumstances, provide make-up time. Most judges appreciate a parent’s willingness to accommodate the other parent for parenting time when circumstances are beyond anyone’s control.
- Be understanding. No one knows what will happen next month, next week, or by the end of today. Keep in mind that this pandemic is affecting people differently – economically, physically, mentally, and emotionally. If an economic hardship has hit the parent who pays child support, show some grace and accept what is being offered.
Now, more than ever, is the time for parents to remember their actions and their outlook on life need to be for the benefit of the children.
Not finishing out the child’s school year will be a lasting memory, and how parents respond to the situation will leave lasting memories. Every child should look back on this time and know that his or her parents did everything they could to keep the child informed and safe.