Attorney Paul J. Sweeney
Co-Parenting During a Pandemic
Managing a co-parenting relationship can be difficult for parents, even more so during a global pandemic. However, despite these unprecedented times, parents must keep in mind that existing parenting orders are not stayed due to Covid-19. Meaning, that any custody order set in motion by the court carries just as much weight and authority as it did before the pandemic. These orders are legally binding and can only be changed or modified by a judge. It also means that any violation of said order can result in being held in contempt of court.
The court’s number one priority in a child custody matter is to adhere to the best interests of the children involved. Therefore, a child custody order is set in light of that goal; thus, deviating from it may not only be detrimental to you, but to your children. So, refrain from using the Pandemic as a reason to break away from your parenting plan. Instead, put to the challenge, form and strengthen the building blocks necessary to make decisions that safeguard your children and their futures. Although things may be more difficult, it’s important that you don't make things harder for yourself and your family. You can avoid doing so by implementing The Three C’s: Communication, Compromise, and Compassion.
All facets of life have been impacted by the pandemic, but we have to adapt and work with one another to regain some form of normality. A successful co-parenting relationship requires open and productive Communication, then and only then can parents make joint decisions on behalf of their children on matters regarding school, parenting time, and health related issues. Have weekly check-ins with the other parent to discuss how things are going and how they could be better. By doing so, you can build trust and avoid unnecessary conflict.
When disagreements do arise-- as they are inevitable in any relationship-- you must find a way to Compromise. For instance, one parent may feel that their home is a more compatible environment for a virtual learning student than the other’s-- perhaps due to higher noise levels, number of home occupants, or even lack of internet access. If issues like this emerge, don't take it personally: decide on the best solution for your child and create a reasonable routine that works for everyone. If temporary changes are necessary due to reasons such as this, or one parent’s exposure to the virus, it's recommended that both parties’ consent to those changes, preferably in writing, in order to both keep matters civil, as well as to have written proof of consent if ever required for court proceedings. If, on the other hand, one parent is reluctant to consent and you believe that your child is in danger, then seek out counsel to help you file the appropriate documentation required to make changes to your parenting plan.
Above all else, remember to practice Compassion when dealing with one another. The overall success of any family dynamic is dependent on the health of the relationships within it. Don’t make things unpleasant for yourselves and your children. Be kind and understanding of each other’s circumstances, especially during these uncertain and unfamiliar times.
When all fails and you find yourself in need of legal advice and/or representation, our office has been handling child custody and modification cases for over thirty years. We’re here to listen, advise, and fight for you and your family.