With sheltering in place being mandated across the country, divorced parents find it difficult to proceed with their parenting orders and custody agreements while maintaining compliance with the “stay at home” mandates. This situation is actually quite complicated, because moving a child from one house to the next does not follow current stay at home guidelines and can increase exposure to the virus. For parents to maintain their custody agreements while adhering to the mandates, certain steps must be taken.
Parents Can Maintain Agreements if Everyone Is Healthy
Custody agreements and visitation plans safely can remain in place if everyone is healthy. This includes both parents, as well as any significant others, siblings, and the children under the agreement. If someone gets sick, even if it does not appear to be COVID-19, the safest option is for children to remain in the home they are currently residing in until the illness has passed.
Parents Should Remain Compliant
Whenever possible, parents should comply with court orders and custody agreements. This is not the time to try to change up the plan unless safety is at risk for the child or the family. Even though schools are closed, parents should avoid making significant changes to the child’s living arrangements that go against the custody agreements.
Parents Need to Communicate
Communication is going to be critical during this time, particularly if there is a disagreement about how to handle custody. Transparency will help prevent frustration and hurt feelings. If a concern arises about the health and safety of the children, parents need to discuss options in order to protect their children. Temporarily changing the custody and visitation times to protect a child’s health may be needed, and communication helps prevent misunderstandings or angry emotions.
Parents Must Be Flexible
This is an unprecedented time, and that means flexibility is needed in everything from how people shop to how people parent. When communication is strong in co-parenting situations, parents can have some flexibility with how they care for their children. Expecting that nothing will change during this unique time in history is not reasonable.
When disagreements arise, working with a family law attorney can help navigate this unique situation. When working to be flexible, parents should be understanding. This is a challenging time for everyone, and children need love and support.