By Tracy Fischer –
Amid the spread of COVID-19, we are all facing unprecedented times. As this pandemic continues, regulations regarding safe practices change daily. One thing on the mind of separated and divorced parents is how they can continue their usual parenting plan in the midst of this very contagious virus.
As the CDC guidelines and state mandates change from day to day, it is so important to communicate with your co-parent. Try to come to an agreement as to the safe practices that you will each maintain in your homes for the safety of your children, yourselves and other family members living in each home.
It is important that children understand what is going on in the world, being respectful of their ages and developmental stage, while also making sure your children see that you are optimistic and believe that things will return to normal in time. Try to minimize the amount of news on each day and not let the news on TV overtake the household.
With children out of school and deprived of their friends and normal routines, it is likely that there will be difficult moments, melt downs and incidents of acting out. You will need your co-parent as support and as a partner during this period to share in parenting.
In this time of crisis, with children out of school and parents needing to work from home, it might be necessary to revise your routine schedule. Remember these changes are not forever, an agreement can be made for the short term to alleviate significant issues that have arisen. It is important to be creative – come up with unique options that work for your family in your particular circumstances.
In discussing any changes, parents might consider which parent has better resources for the child to complete distance learning, if one parent has a high-risk job, the health of family members, social distancing rules, etc. In the unfortunate event that a parent is required to self-quarantine or is restricted from having contact with others, efforts should be made to encourage parenting time by video conference, facetime or telephone.
The current reality is that the courts are closed to the public for now, running with very low staff. Only emergencies may be heard by judges. When the courts reopen, it is unlikely they will return with the same type of sessions and procedures that have been used in the past. Probate courts are known to be crowded and litigants are often in close quarters. The court system has always been known for delays and slow resolutions… that is going to be compounded by the stream of cases that will be scheduled when the courts reopen.
Mediation and alternative dispute resolution are no longer “alternative” ways to handle conflicts and disputes. They should be the primary choice. With the courts closed at this time and overwhelmed for the foreseeable future, mediators are able to help families in crisis through video and telephone conferencing. They are able to memorialize these temporary changes and agreements in writing and coordinate remote signatures. Please call our office to see if we can help during this difficult time.