During the COVID-19 pandemic, child custody emerged as a critical legal issue. Some parents acting as essential workers, such as doctors and nurses, suddenly found themselves facing custody order modifications filed by their exes that prevented them from seeing their children. For other parents, figuring out where to exchange custody with schools closed or making contingency plans should either parent or their children contract the coronavirus added complexity to an already-sensitive issue.
Today, we're taking a look at some best practices parents can adopt to make their parenting plans more flexible in the wake of COVID-19.
Pandemic-Proofing Your Parenting Plan: Tips & Tricks
You can do several things to make your parenting plan more robust and stable, even during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Establish a secondary custody exchange location. For many parents, schools or childcare facilities are the only locations where they transfer custody. The coronavirus resulted in schools across the US closing and childcare facilities limiting their services to children of essential workers. You should establish a backup custody transfer location.
- Create a system for working together during a crisis. We understand that many parents engaged in a custody arrangement are estranged from their ex, which can make co-parenting difficult. However, during challenging times, parents should come together to co-parent effectively. Children need stability during events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and having a system in place can help parents collaborate more efficiently. If you genuinely can't get along with your ex, try finding a mediator both parties can work with to remedy their differences.
- Craft a contingency for what happens if a parent or child falls seriously ill. Symptoms for the coronavirus range from asymptomatic to mild to extreme, and it's essential to prepare for the worst. If one parent catches a contagious illness, how will the other parent handle that situation? If one of the children falls ill, what kind of medical care should they receive? Asking these questions may be uncomfortable, but answering them can provide your family with much-needed security during difficult times.
- Come up with different ways for parents to spend time with their children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents acting as essential workers temporarily gave up physical custody to reduce the chances of their children contracting the virus. Make sure to set up tools like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom so absent parents can still interact with their children. Media such as video games can also be an excellent way for parents and children to spend time together.
- Ensure each parent pursues the best interests of their children. Children have the potential to be emotionally drained by crises. The removal of friends and teachers from their lives can be destabilizing. Make sure both parents communicate with each other about how their children are feeling, and don't ignore tools like counseling that can help children process their emotions.
- Be open to adjusting your parenting plan, at least temporarily. If a parent is forced to work from home, they may not be able to parent their children effectively. Both parents should be willing to temporarily adjust their custody arrangement if it serves the children.
At Hembree Bell Law Firm, PLLC, our attorney can help you understand the ins and outs of child custody arrangements. To learn more, contact us online or via phone at (512) 768-9737.