The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged day-to-day life in many ways. For many divorced or separated mothers and fathers, this has been felt most acutely with co-parenting. As one writer says, even exes with a strong, healthy relationship are not immune, as efforts to establish a “shared pandemic protocol, or not,” has resulted in many families feeling “exhausted, frustrated and — most of all — anxious.”
How can you get through this period of uncertainty relatively unscathed? Here are four suggestions.
Consult the parenting plans
The pandemic has not done anything to change existing child custody or parenting time orders. In general, parents are expected to continue following the existing arrangement. Sometimes this may not be realistic, particularly if there are pressing health concerns.
You can consider trying to obtain a new court order that would modify the parenting plan. With the status of courts in flux, it is a good idea to speak to your lawyer about this. However, another good option is to talk to your child’s other parent. Explain the situation and try to reach an amicable solution.
Be flexible with unpredictable changes
It is important to remain flexible. Of course, you should not agree to anything that would put your child in harm’s way. However, there may be times where a certain arrangement will not work for your former partner due to unforeseen or difficult circumstances. Giving a little bit now may help your partner show similar flexibility when you need some slack later.
Get predictable changes in writing
If you and a former partner want to make any longer-term changes, document it somewhere. While not a court order, this can be beneficial if there is a dispute later on. Changing the holiday schedule to reduce exposure or using virtual visitation on a regular basis if there are virus concerns, are examples of situations that may warrant documentation.
Keep the lines of communication open
Above all, communicate. If you are feeling unsure about something, explain why. If you are not worried about an item and the other parent is very concerned, talk about it. You may even consider looping in a third party, such as a health expert, to help you find middle ground.
Life has been upended. In many ways, comfort and predictability have gone with it. Refusing to discuss these changes will not help anything.