Co-parenting during a Pandemic
As the world is currently facing an unprecedented and historical event, with the COVID-19 virus having affected every part of the planet, many parents who share custody of their children are experiencing uncharted territory in how to address this issue. Does the visitation schedule remain in place? Should we quarantine with the children and keep them from the other parent until the stay-in-order mandates are lifted? What if the other parent exposes the child? While each state has its own set of laws in effect, as well as each district within the state, the overarching theme and expectation is for parents to use this time to communicate, make the best decisions for their children, and put aside acrimony. Children should look back at this time with fond memories of being with their parents, rather than remembering a rift between the two people they love so much.
Family law attorneys are required to follow the orders of the courts as well as any executive state orders. Many courts have explicitly stated that visitation and custody orders are to remain in full force and effect during the pandemic, and parents are expected to cooperate with those orders. However, in an effort to work around social distancing, working and schooling at home, and avoiding travel as much as possible, parents are also encouraged to work together to create alternative schedules which take into consideration this “new normal.” For example, if a parent has a weekday visit for dinner, it may be wise to extend that visit through the weekend, so as to avoid unnecessary travel and provide the other parent with a reprise. Another option is to divide time week on, week off, as to keep the children quarantined in one home as long as possible. Additionally, this is not a time for game playing – if there is a risk of exposure, or a parent is ill, full disclosure is best. The most important consideration is the best interest of the child and ensuring they remain as healthy as possible. Make up parenting time or visitation at a later time can always be worked out if either of the parents is sick. If this situation does arise, the parent who has the physical possession of the child or children should ensure that they are connected to the other parent via video conferencing. Thanks to today’s technology, a parent can read stories, play trivia games, and spend time with their child while not being in the same physical place. Creativity is key.
Courts throughout the country may not be currently running in the normal course of operations. Many courts have essentially closed, but for emergency matters. True emergencies may arise, however, much of the issues that are now arising are not emergencies and should be resolved elsewhere. A great option during the COVID-19 era, when a stalemate has been reached, is to reach out to a private mediator to conduct a mediation session via video conferencing, such as Zoom. Mediators are trained to deal with difficult issues and are able to formulate creative solutions that take into consideration the specific circumstances of the parents. They also allow the parents more time to share information and feel heard, which is not always the case before a packed courtroom.
If you have any issues or questions regarding family law matters during the COVID-19 stay home orders, please contact a family lawyer in Lake Forest, IL right away.
Thanks to Hurst, Robin & Kay, LLC for their insight into family law and co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.