The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a lot of blended families a curve ball, separated and divorced coparents are dealing with unprecedented and frightening circumstances right now. We decided to write some tips to help your family deal with the current situation, here are our tips and ideas for coparenting during this pandemic.
Most importantly —Stick to your parenting plan, if possible
Court orders stand unless you and the other parent mutually agree to make changes, or it is impossible to adhere to it (like travel cancellations). So far, and during the “stay-at-home” orders we have already seen this year, local governments have allowed for parents to travel for custody exchanges. Make sure if you and your coparent do come to a mutual decision regarding a change in your situation during this pandemic — PUT IT IN WRITING. Make sure the agreement is well written, and all parties sign and agree to the change in the plan and the duration in which these changes will last. Details written into changes if a parent is not getting their normal parenting time, like phone calls and texts, online games, etc… should be written down in the new agreement so there is no confusion on the contact that each parent is going to have with the child.
Your households are connected, even though they’re not together.
As a blended family we always have to remember that even though our homes are no longer together, that they’re still connected. With children going between both homes now during this pandemic, we need to remember this. What is done or not done in one home can endanger the members of the other household and who they come in contact with regularly. Trying to accept the safety measures in your home may not be identical to those in the other and that is – okay. With many other situations co-parents have to deal with we need to have open communication with our coparents about health and safety and trust that just because safety measures may look different — though situations may be different — that each home is doing their best to keep everyone safe and healthy. Most importantly avoid sending the message to the kids that your home is safer than their other home. Help your children to understand the differences there may be in circumstance between the two homes making safety measures different but that they are safe in both places.
Define what public health recommendations and restrictions mean in your household and with your coparent
Translating general health advice to your kids in ways they can understand is important. Instead of just social distancing, what does that look like as a child? No playdates, no travel, etc.. what does safety precautions look like in your family specifically? It is also a good idea if you have a healthy coparenting situation to discuss and make a plan with your coparent about the kids. If you can come to an amiable agreement together on ways to support each other and help the other parent feel confidant when it’s not their custody time it could help congruency and for all family members to feel safe and in more control during this time.
Communicate with your coparent often
With the ever changing environment we are all living in with COVID-19 it could cause frequent changes in our lives. It is important to keep your coparent up to date on any of these changes. Loss of job, working from home, going back to the office, changes at school, sick family members, etc… sending emails to update your coparent is an effective way to keep them up to date on what is changing and prevents the children from feeling the pressure of relaying the message of what is going on in their lives.
It would also be a good idea to have a plan of action with your coparent should someone in either household become ill with the virus. What would the child care situation look like, how will custody adjust during quarantine time, etc… During emergencies and crises, many parents find they are able to cooperate in ways they’ve never been able to before. Remember to give your coparent the benefit of the doubt during this time.
Call a professional if a significant parental conflict arises
We understand with all that is going on anxieties and worries are high which can in many cases lead to a significant dilemma or conflict. Should you face this with your coparent, your attorney may be able to resolve the issue quickly and reach a stipulation through your coparents legal counsel.
Remember, this is not forever
This pandemic will not last forever, it is temporary. Things will eventually get back to normal, and under control and coparenting will get back into the swing of things. Until then remember, any adjustments that need to be made will go back to normal, this is a great time to model healthy coping skills and resiliency for your children.
Murfreesboro Family Law attorneys are working daily with old and new clients on how to navigate COVID19 and coparenting. Going through divorce or separation adds to the stress of this time, but we are here to help you navigate and do the best you can for your children during this time. If you have questions, would like to have a consult with one of our attorneys or need immediate conflict solution related to the pandemic please call our Murfreesboro, TN offices at 615-890-3656.