Co-parenting and Child Custody During COVID-19 Lawyers Morristown NJ
This is not an easy time. Around the country, divorced parents and other co-parents are weighing their family’s safety with the legal agreements they have made to share custody of their children. In a pandemic that has already affected more people in the United States than anywhere in the world, this is an unprecedented time when what is just is not always safe. As such, we have some tips for you to keep in mind as you navigate whether to keep the kids sheltered in place in one home.
Should we keep the kids sheltered in place in one home?
- Consider your children’s and your own health above all else.
- The COVID-19 virus is rapidly spreading and contagious even – and especially – in the absence of symptoms. Whatever you and your partner jointly decide is best for your family regarding co-parenting during this time, take all of the necessary precautions to protect yourselves from the spread of the virus. This means staying within your home as much as possible, washing your hands each time you touch something shared, and wiping down all surfaces regularly.
- Communicate with your children. This is a time of many questions for everyone, yet children whose routines of visits with parents are disrupted may feel particularly thrown off by the changes. Share pertinent and appropriate information with your child about what is happening in the world while maintaining a sense of calm and composure, and ensuring them that you are taking all of the necessary measures to stay healthy at this time. Empower them to take responsibility for their own health and security by teaching them hand washing techniques or giving them a sanitizing job around the house. While it is important to fill your child in on why daily routines have so drastically changed, it is also important to protect them from the alarmist media that could cause unnecessary stress.
- Communicate and work in a team with your co-parent. Now is not the time for petty squabbles, and even disagreements about how to handle this unique situation must be met with compassion, patience, and shared intention of harmony and collaboration. Work together to create a proactive plan detailing the steps of each pickup and dropoff, highlighting sanitization procedures that will be carried out, as well as an emergency action plan in the case that either parent or the child begins exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. And, of course, if you or your child begins exhibiting symptoms, let your co-parent know immediately.
- Maintain court-ordered custody agreements and schedules, as possible. This is where things get tricky, as desires to abide by custody agreements may conflict with desires to keep your family quarantined during this time. As much as possible, stick to your parenting time agreement as if your child was currently in school. Of course, make sure to take all of the precautions necessary to protect your child and yourselves from the virus.
- Be flexible and assume positive intent. While the ideal situation is that you and your co-parent can continue following your parenting time agreements and sharing a safe connection with your child, the situation may dictate that a total shift in schedule is required, even though it goes against legal custody agreements. If for the safety of your family plans must change and your co-parent is the one to initiate a shift in schedule or plan, assume positive intent. Trust that they are taking the best interests of your child to heart and acting to the best of their abilities. Ask questions to clarify that you are on the same page with their vision. If the proposed change in plans or shift to your schedule includes you being estranged from your child for any short or longer period of time, keep the child’s safety and health at the center of your considerations as you thought partner about best-case scenario steps to take, or, ideally, implement the emergency plan you two have already come up with.
- Be Creative. As plans change and one parent finds themselves estranged from their child or with an unusually full schedule with their child, work together to brainstorm ways to use the time thoughtfully, playfully, and usefully to create a connection. Utilize the myriad of technological ways to chat, and send over activity ideas to your co-parent. The key remembrance during this time is that you are working together in support of your child, and supporting your child means supporting your co-parent with patience, flexibility, and collaboration through this difficult time.
Contact Our Morristown Parenting Time Attorneys for Guidance During the Pandemic and Quarantine
At The Law Offices of Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in supporting our clients in Florham Park, Tewksbury, Randolph, Morristown, across Morris County, or the surrounding areas in navigating custody arrangements and parenting time agreements.