As daily life grinds to a halt, divorced or separated couples with children must re-evaluate custody arrangements for safety and decide what level of precautions to take with their children. With these uncertain and changing times, it is especially important for both parents to communicate and cooperate. In Nebraska, the Courts are generally requiring the parents to stick with their parenting plan. The Court is generally allowing deviations to the plan when the health or safety of the children especially call for it, such as when a parent has contracted Covid-19, has had a known recent exposure, or has a household member who has had recent exposure.
COVID-19 Parents Sharing Custody
Parents need to remember that this is an uncertain time for their children as well. They need to put aside their differences to protect the children physically and emotionally. Meeting custody agreement terms and following health advisories during the novel coronavirus pandemic can create a lot of uncertainty for both parents and children.
Here are some suggestions that can help separated parents work through COVID-19 Parents Sharing Custody:
Be compliant during COVID-19 Parents Sharing Custody
Parents should try their best to maintain their agreements. If a court order or agreement is in place for your parenting matters, you must still meet those terms unless there is a good reason. If arrangements become unclear or cannot be met because of quarantine, travel restrictions because schools close, or another reason, use common sense to find solutions to challenges. Give the other parent plenty of notice and an explanation so they also have time to adjust.
Parents should be honest with children 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. But, encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate. Avoid expressing impatience with health rules. Project calm and confidence.
Many parents have been marooned overseas by travel bans, while others are required to work long or irregular hours. In such situations, it’s important for the parent with over-extended custody to be creative. If children won’t be able to see the other parent or other important people, find other ways to try to maintain the connection – including digital communications.
Where one parent is unavoidably prevented from spending time with the kids, the co-parent should make reasonable efforts to try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if it’s possible.
In the midst of all this, co-parents must work together to protect their children from COVID-19 exposure. Try to be on the same page with the other parent about the things you will each do in your respective households (and in your wider communities) to limit exposure to the virus and to shield the children. Have an agreed response plan for if your child shows any symptoms. Immediately tell the other parent. Have your own self-isolation plan ready and share it with the other parent if necessary. Try to engage openly and honestly with the other parent about your concerns.
The pandemic is imposing financial hardships on many, making it difficult for some co-parents to make child support payments. People may lose jobs or experience a reduction in their income. This may impact what can be paid by way of child support or the contribution to other expenses. Try to be understanding of the situation the other parent is in – financial worry will probably exist in both households. The message and legacy of these days should be, as far as possible, that both parents and households worked together to find a solution that was as good as possible for the children.
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. Let the other parent know that you are taking things seriously. As with all co-parenting, it works best if you are consistent in each home.
Be present and considered
This is a serious health challenge. Children will have heard much through their schools, networks, and media. Children may not be able to process the information in a way that allows for peace of mind. Older children whose studies and major social events such as school formals and celebrations have been canceled may be unsettled and anxious. Younger children can easily become confused and scared.
Think about how you would like the other parent to engage with you about these issues, and model that behavior. Make accommodations to the other parent if you can and they are good for the children. Ask for accommodations if you need to. If time can’t occur at one point, suggest it occur at another point. All parents and children will benefit from some mutually agreed give and take.
Very few people can be certain about planning in times of stress and may respond in a way that seems unreasonable to you. Being calm in times of high stress is hard – but you are more likely to reduce the conflict if both are making the best effort possible.
Focus on solutions
More than ever, parents and other adults concerned with the care of children need to find a compromise in the interests of children. Courts will increasingly have limited availability, dispute resolution services may be hard to access, and common sense coupled with respectful engagement may be the surest path. It’s an opportunity to find new ways to solve old problems.
Be patient and positive
This situation is not going to resolve overnight. The way we work, socialize, communicate, and parent will change over the next few weeks and months. Make a conscious effort to embrace the good and joyful moments in each day, stay connected by phone or social media to friends or family who can support you, and remember that you are the beacon for your children at this time.
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.
Law Office of Julie Fowler, PC, LLO | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
Child Custody | Child Support | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
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