Mar 20, 2020

Coronavirus and Co-Parenting During a Pandemic

Washing your hands and maintaining appropriate “social distance” from your co-parent are likely not going to be enough to help you effectively get through the coronavirus quarantine.  Moreover, since most parenting agreements do not have a provision for “what to do in the event of a pandemic”, this is where  common sense, civility and a joint effort to do what is best for your children will ideally prevail.  More and better communication and flexibility should be your main line of defense.    

Even assuming you have a good working relationship with your co-parent, addressing unexpected and complicated events such as government quarantines, lengthy school closures  or “shelter in place” mandates is far from simple.  First and foremost, it is important to assess your particular situation.  Is child care available?  Is anyone sick or showing any flu-like symptoms?  Is anyone in either home required to work outside of the house (i.e. doctors, firemen, policeman, etc.)?  You and your co-parent may have different goals or concerns but at the end of the day, no one should argue that the health of your child(ren) is of the utmost priority. 

Some options for addressing parenting time and decision making may be completely out of your individual control.  For example, if a child is bound to one parent's home because of a full lockdown, using facetime or the like might be the only choice to spend time with your child.  Perhaps parenting time might have to take place on the front lawn standing 6 feet away from each other?  Regardless of your situation, I am a big proponent of regular updates.  In trying times such as these, a simple email or text to the non-visiting parent regarding what your child has been up to for the day can help quell some anxieties.  It can also assist the other parent in connecting with the child over teleconferencing.  And if you really want to score some points, it wouldn’t hurt to send an extra roll of toilet paper to your co-parent at the time of exchange.     

Because many of our courts have now closed their doors to anything other than emergencies, parents will be forced to come up with out-of-court resolutions.  While court policies are being put into place to enter agreed orders, non-emergent matters in the Chicago area are being continued through at least April 15. 

Ideally, parents regularly communicate and discuss the “what-ifs” ahead of time to head off any major issue.  If, however, the issue cannot be resolved, collaboration or mediation methods with the assistance of trained counsel and mental health professionals are readily available and can largely be accomplished via teleconference or the like.  If you are unable to work things out with your co-parent during this crazy time, please do not hesitate to reach out  to brainstorm and discuss available options.  

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