Many parents are feeling a variety of emotions right now including fear, anxiety, stress, and an overwhelming sense of chaos at home. Some parents have quickly become home school teachers, some working through the financial and emotional strains of lost income, job uncertainty, and work space changes. Some parents are on the frontlines providing healthcare and resources to those in need. On top of all of this, parents are felling the added pressure of making sure their children remain healthy and safe.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, and with things changing around us on a day to day basis, co-parents are faced with special challenges. From temporary changes to parenting time and child care schedules, to making difficult health and education related decisions, and facing the reality surrounding your ability to provide the emotional and economic support that your children may need, families are struggling to adapt.
We are not here to provide the answers or give you a plan, but we are here to assure that you are not alone in facing these challenges. Although we do not have the answers, we want to provide you with resources to develop a proactive approach that will best serve you and your family. The current situation will likely result in temporary changes to schedules and routines. It is our hope that these resources will assist you and your co-parent in developing open lines of communication, and ultimately, keeping your children healthy, safe, and encouraged.
It is important to remember that our children are facing fears and challenges of their own. By limiting the conflict at home, between homes, and between parents, we can help support our children as they navigate further transitions. Parents working together will provide children with a sense of peace in the midst of chaos, and will serve as a great example of support, structure, and unity. By constructively working through some of the most difficult co-parenting issues of today, we are hopeful that families will be inspired to communicate openly, develop new and healthy interactions, and build trust– which will cultivate and build for the future.
We are inspired as we see communities and people come together to fight this fight. Please remember that our team is a part of your community. We are in this together.
Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Divorced/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Leaders from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and AFCC have released guidelines for co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic:
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 BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumor mill on social media.
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. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on 24/7, for instance. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.
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 haggling 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 were still in session.
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. In addition, 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.
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.
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 and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.
There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many, 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.
Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It’s important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep their child safe.
Additional Resources and Information
Talking to Children about COVID-19
- Child Mind Institute’s Article on Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus
- NPR’s Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus
- CDC Guidance on Talking to Children About COVID-19
- Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope
- UNICEF – How to Talk to your child about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Coronavirus: Wisdom from a Social Justice Lens
- Care for Your Coronavirus Anxiety
- 7 Science-based Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety
- Centers for Disease Control Manage Anxiety and Stress, Coronavirus Disease 2019
- CDC Guidance on Managing Mental Health