Co-parenting in any circumstance requires a high level of cooperation and communication between divorced parents but co-parenting during this summer brings a unique set of challenges as a result of the global Coronavirus pandemic. From summer camp closures to travel restrictions, there are many additional considerations for co-parents to keep in mind while planning for this summer.
Parenting Plan and Agreement. As a starting point, co-parents should review the terms of their Parenting Agreements, Orders or like documents which memorialize their agreements related to the children’s schedules. A review of agreed upon terms will determine whether changes need to be made to the Agreement at this time. If changes need to be made, then those agreements should be memorialized in writing and confirmed by both parents so that there are no misunderstandings or miscommunication about the terms.
Travel Plans. If planning to travel this summer, co-parents should communicate his or her proposed travel plans to the other parent as soon as possible. It is especially important to provide the travel logistics and the steps a parent intends to take to mitigate virus exposure for the child. With many domestic and international destinations implementing travel restrictions or visit parameters including, but not limited to, self-quarantine periods, limited operating hours, face mask requirements, temperature checks and city curfews, travel plans may need to be modified to adjust to these requirements.
Summer Camp / Program Changes. With many summer camps closed, or operating based on certain restrictions, figuring out the childcare plan for the summer requires additional consideration. If summer camp remains an option, then parents should confirm, in writing, their agreement for the child to attend the camp regardless of whether the program occurs during his or her parenting time. Similarly, if summer camp is not an option or there is no agreement for the child to attend, then an alternative summer childcare plan will need to be put in place in consideration of several factors including, but not limited to, parent’s work schedules, the child’s age and any expenses associated with alternative care. Maintaining a joint calendar is a viable way to keep everyone organized and updated on the summer schedule.
Summer Expenses. The schedule itself is not the only thing that may be impacted this summer. Summer expenses, whether for summer programs or alternative childcare due to camp closures, will likely be different this summer than in prior years. A clear understanding of any changes to the anticipated summer expenses, and each parent’s responsibility to contribute to those expenses, may help alleviate unnecessary issues between co-parents. It is not unrealistic to expect that this summer may include contributions to expenses that parents may not have otherwise anticipated including, but not limited, babysitters or summer nanny, ELearning summer programs or summer school tutors. Parents should consider using an expense tracking spreadsheet or App to help alleviate questions related to expenses incurred and reimbursements.
Dispute Resolution. If a direct agreement between co-parents is not reached, then following the dispute resolution procedures of your Parenting Plan and Agreement is the next step. Whether your Agreement requires submitting the dispute to a Parent Coordinator or participating in mediation, it would behoove parents to take the necessary steps to engage in the dispute resolution process sooner rather than later so that a resolution can be reached early.
The summer of 2020 may present unique considerations for co-parents. However, with communication, cooperation, compliance with Parenting Agreements and a shared concern for your children’s best interests, parents can focus on what is truly important - enjoying this time with their children.