Parenting is hard without the added stress of managing your child’s well being across two separate households. Co-parenting during a crisis like COVID-19 can heighten emotions and stress levels for both parents and their children. That’s why it is important to put aside any disputes and focus on doing what is best for your children. Even though you may not want to communicate with your ex at all, it is important to prioritize communicating now more than ever. Here are some questions you should be asking each other:
COVID-19-Related Questions to Ask
- Is the current custody schedule prioritizing the safety of your child or are the children being moved unnecessarily?
- If schools have opened in the area – do you and your ex have a difference in opinion on whether your child should return to school?
- Is one parent better equipped to handle homeschooling for the children? For example, does one parent have better wifi, more flexibility with work, and/or more space at home to provide for a strong learning environment?
- Does one parent come in contact with the public more often? Does anyone else in either household come in contact with the public more often?
- Is anyone in the household considered high risk for COVID-19?
- Does one household have a better outdoor space that the children can use to exercise a safe distance from others?
Communicate Any Changes
In a time of crisis, your child needs contact and support from both parents more than usual. Love, guidance and comfort are some of the things that parents provide their children on a daily basis. It is important that even if you and your ex have decided to edit the custody schedule, your child still gets the time with each parent that they need. Scheduling regular time for telephone and video conferencing between your child and the non-custodial parent can help ensure they are getting the contact they need.
It is a good idea to document any temporary changes to the shared custody arrangement. This includes any newly scheduled virtual visits. Arguing over an easily avoided miscommunication is the last thing you want. Defining expectations and putting them in writing can be a great way to improve communications with your ex.
However, it is important to note that any changes made to the current custody agreement need to be agreed upon by both parents and hold no legal standing. Acting outside of the agreed-upon custody arrangements without communicating with your ex can have serious legal consequences. The intentions behind your actions do not matter. You and your co-parent need to both be on board with any changes made.
Court ordered arrangements must be followed unless the guardian can prove that there is a specific health or safety risk. If one parent does not agree to an altered arrangement and you think your child is at risk, then a judge will have to review the case before any changes can be made. If you think you or your child is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local child protective services immediately.
Tips on Co-Parenting During COVID-19
- Always answer any communication within a reasonable time. It is important to communicate with the co-parent more during this time, not less.
- Set aside time to be available to virtually visit with your child. Make sure the co-parent with custody at the time is setting aside time for the child to be available.
- Focus less on keeping score or worrying about who the child favors more. Your child’s health and well-being should be the priority.
- Once the crisis period is over, recognize that the non-custodial parent will need additional time to reconnect with their child.
Modeling your behavior and being consistent is important to successful co-parenting, especially during a crisis like COVID-19. Find more co-parenting tips like these on our blog.