Guidelines for Co-Parenting During Covid-19
The AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts) and AAML (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers) have drafted the following guidelines designed to assist divorced and separated co-parents during the current Covid-19 Pandemic.
SEVEN GUIDELINES FOR PARENTS WHO ARE DIVORCED/SEPARATED AND SHARING CUSTODY OF CHILDREN DURING THE COVID19 PANDEMIC
1. BE HEALTHY.
Comply with all government 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.
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. 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.
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 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.
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. 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.
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 and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings
about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.
7. BE UNDERSTANDING.
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.