When I first meet with a new client and begin discussing custody and parenting time, I routinely tell the client about the importance of having two parents in their child’s life. Also, and more importantly, that co-parenting doesn’t just happen in the good times (soccer games, dance recitals), but that co-parenting also must happen during the difficult times. I dare say that neither I nor any of my clients probably ever imagined that a difficult time would include co-parenting during a global pandemic.
Now that the Coronavirus or COVID-19 has changed our daily lives, how do divorced and divorcing parents navigate these difficult times? Daycares and schools have closed, forcing home schooling. Many offices have closed or moved to working from home, college students are returning home earlier than expected, and there is the fear of getting sick or a loved one getting sick and being subject to quarantine.
Here are some important items to keep in mind:
- The children are the first priority. This may be difficult; competing work schedules and lack of child care or school closings will require above-average communication between the parents and a schedule. No matter what communication has been like in the past, now is the time to open and utilize a high level of communication. Suggest a calender that revolves around the children’s on-line school activities, and a sharing of responsibilities so that you both can adequately carry out your job or other responsibilities.
- Be flexible. For many couples, adhering to the schedule they agreed to prevents conflict; however, that schedule did not account for children being home full-time and the potential need to juggle work schedules. For the time being, don’t worry about who has the children more or less time than the other parent. Remember, this too shall pass.
- If someone in your house gets sick, adjust. If you or the other parent gets sick and has to self-quarantine, adjust the schedule for what makes sense, and don’t worry about the existing schedule.
- Ask for help. None of us are mind readers. When the day to day becomes overwhelming, reach out to family or friends and ask for help.
- Most of all, be patient. I want to believe that everyone is doing the very best they can right now. There is no right or wrong in this moment.
The upcoming days are going to test us all. In Kentucky, the courts have shut down except for emergencies. Families are under more stress than ever before. Being kind and not assuming the worst may help all of us in getting through this difficult time.