Being a parent is not easy, especially now, during the Coronavirus pandemic. You may find it difficult to home-school kids while working from home or to explain world events to your kids in an age-appropriate way. It may be hard to soothe anxieties—your own and those of your children. For those who co-parent, the often challenging nature of sharing parental responsibilities with your ex may exacerbate some of these pressures. Here, we offer six tips for co-parenting during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Know What Your Local Courts Expect
In Massachusetts, Existing Parenting Orders are in Effect
First, you should understand how the Coronavirus pandemic may be affecting family law and domestic relations in your jurisdiction. In Massachusetts, for example, the courts are closed to routine business for the moment. Parenting orders are in effect, however. The court may even grant new orders in emergencies and exigent circumstances. Additionally, Massachusetts has modified the parent education requirements in this time of crisis. It has also issued a standing order regarding guardian ad litem appointments, which may affect many cases.
It is important to stay compliant with any existing orders, as well as to be clear on how any pending cases are affected. Check with your family court website frequently regarding important news and updates as the pandemic unfolds. The Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts has provided guidance, here.
Communicate and Be Transparent With Your Co-Parent
Communication, as always, is key. Be transparent with your ex about the safety measures you plan to take on your child’s behalf, along with any potential exposure you may have encountered. Stay in touch about your child’s physical, emotional, and social health as they get accustomed to a new normal—whether that be in terms of remote schooling, social distancing, or coping with the anxiety of this crisis. This article, by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, provides some helpful tips on communicating with your ex as you navigate co-parenting during a pandemic.
Flexibility is more important than ever. In light of the global pandemic, it may be impossible to maintain usual parenting time schedules. One parent may need to isolate, for example. Because of this, you and your ex may need to be much more flexible at times regarding visitation, at least temporarily. This doesn’t mean canceling parenting time. Rather, it means allowing for more creativity in the manner in which the child and each parent connect, such as by teleconference or phone.
Again, you still need to understand how the courts are handling co-parenting orders in your jurisdiction. Remember that in Massachusetts, parenting orders are still in effect. So, as Chief Justice Casey said in the guidance linked in tip one, “In cases where a parent must self-quarantine or is otherwise restricted from having contact with others, both parents should cooperate to allow for parenting time by video conference or telephone.”
Create New Traditions
Make the most of your time at home by creating new traditions. Staying safe at home presents the perfect opportunity to establish weekly family movie nights and game nights. On nice days, move reading time to the backyard or go for a walk that doubles as a scavenger hunt.
Share Time, Attention, and Affection
While the kids may be socially distancing at home, technology has made it much easier to keep in touch. Now more than ever, it is important to allow children to feel connected to their entire “village,” not only in terms of both parents but also their extended families. Both parents should strive to allow children the opportunity to connect with loved ones on both sides of the family.
Avoid Triggers and Keep the Kids out of Conflict
Avoid any trigger points and keep the kids out of conflict. If you and your ex have a challenging relationship, chances are you know the trigger points that tend to push buttons and cause arguments. Whether those be emotional texts, alcohol, or talking about a specific topic, it is imperative that you avoid those trigger points and minimize conflict. This is especially true since your children are home.
As you navigate parenting responsibilities in these times of crisis, keep these guidelines in mind. Take time for self-care. Keeping both children and parents safe, healthy, and connected to loved ones should be a priority.
If you have questions about co-parenting during the Coronavirus pandemic or other family law issues, contact us. You may schedule a free consultation online with our experienced attorneys at Turco Legal. If you’d prefer to schedule a consultation by phone, call (866) 995-6663.