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Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We know that many of you are wondering what happens to allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the Court and attorneys attempt to address issues that commonly arise in parenting disputes, it’s doubtful that your parenting orders have a clause concerning what to do during a pandemic. It goes without saying that things come up which no one could have predicted, and we are currently in the midst of uncharted territory.

Below are a few guidelines to follow during this difficult time:

    • Comply with all CDC and state guidelines and model good behavior for your children with appropriate hand washing, wiping down surfaces that are frequently touched, and maintain appropriate social distancing requirements. This also means to be informed. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid following the rumors that can originate on social media.
    • Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal. Avoid making negative comments in front of your children and exposing them to endless media coverage that can cause unnecessary stress. But, do encourage your children to ask questions and express their feelings and concerns as well as attempt to answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.
    • Court orders exist to prevent endless fighting over the details of parenting. In most jurisdictions, the Court has entered orders requiring court orders for parenting time to be followed even in light of this pandemic. It is important that children know that both parents are there to support them and that both parents are following the appropriate rules to keep them safe. Many people will want to keep their children home to protect them from Covid-19. While this position is one shared by many parents, it is important to focus on how your child is feeling. Your child has two parents and they need to feel that both parents are safe and support them.
    • It is also important to realize that during times like this, certain things will need to change to accommodate the changing landscape and governmental requirements. During this time, there will be some parents who have to work more to assist with the crisis while some parents will be unable to work at all. It is important to encourage closeness for those parents that will not be able to see their children as much. This can be effectuated through the use of SKYPE and/or FaceTime. If both parents are out of work during this time, it is important for parents to work together so that the children can see both parents during this emotionally scary time.
    • Please focus on providing honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Certainly, both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus. It is also important to remember that the virus can be spread by an individual even if they are asymptomatic. It is very important to follow all CDC guidelines and/or the guidelines of your medical practitioner.
    • Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.
    • There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving it. It is important for parents to be honest with one another in these circumstances to reduce the animosity, if possible. It is also important to alert the Court to any changes as quickly as possible to avoid further problems once the pandemic is over.

Adversity and difficult times can become an opportunity for parents to come together to focus on what is best for their children. For many children, this pandemic and the changes that they are experiencing will provide a long-lasting memory for them. It is important for every child to remember that their parents came together for them and helped explain what was happening while also focusing on keeping them safe.

At Abramovitch, Blalock & McKinnon, our family law attorneys are here for you during this difficult time. We can be reached at (312) 372-1639.