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Co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic

Changes to child arrangements between separated parents because of Coronavirus can put huge strain on already fragile relationships.

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We can see in our forum that some of you have already seen this coming. Missed handovers due to restrictions placed on your kids by quarantine. Separated parents who live with older or vulnerable people scared that mixing your children in to your household could put other family members at risk. Some of you have concerns about missed court dates.

To get some clarity we asked Jane Kerr, family mediator at Wells Family Mediation what she is thinking,

“In these highly unusual and uncertain times, communicating effectively as co-parents is more crucial than ever. We recognise that the possible lock down enforced by some other European countries may be extended to the UK, and this will have a huge impact on child arrangements. With financial pressures and general uncertainty this is of course an extremely unsettling time for separated parents and their children.This will be a challenging time for many families and, more than ever, parents are to be encouraged to lay aside differences and work together to support each other. In the hurly burly of news reports and changing landscapes, we must be mindful of the strain that this is for many around us, including our children of course and their other parent.” 

At Dad.info we know all our children are watching how we react to this situation and that they will have a life-time of memories of this Covid-19 crisis. As far as practical lets work to make those happy memories. Which means, if at all possible co-parents need to pull together as a team, prioritise the whole family’s well being and most importantly work really hard at maintaining regular contact even if this has to be digitally for now. We know this isn’t going to be easy and we are here for the long haul. If you need any support at this tough time then we are offering for free our guide to Parenting in a Pandemic and also have put our family support workers online in our forum where you can ask questions or just for some support from our experts.

If you are co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. BE HEALTHY.

Comply with local guidelines and model good behaviour for your children with intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. This also means BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumour mill on social media.

2. BE MINDFUL.

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 in time. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on 24/7, for instance. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.

3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and custody agreements.

As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The custody agreement or court order exists to prevent endless haggling over the details of timesharing. In some jurisdictions there are even standing orders mandating that, if schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as though school were still in session.

4. BE CREATIVE.

At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to fly and vacation attractions such as amusement parks, museums and entertainment venues are closing all over the world. In addition, some parents will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games and FaceTime or Skype.

5. BE TRANSPARENT.

Provide 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.

6. BE GENEROUS.

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.

7. BE UNDERSTANDING.

There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many, many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something, even if it can’t be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.

About the Contributors

Wells Family Mediation can offer telephone information, as well as pre mediation assessment meetings online, for anyone who is interested in mediation and located within the Kent and East Sussex areas. Take good care of yourselves and each other during this difficult time and feel free to be in touch.

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