Tools for Co-Parenting During a Crisis
It would be wonderful if we could all plan ahead for every scenario, but it often takes an emergency for communities to take a hard look at whether they are prepared to face the unexpected. Given the current Coronavirus pandemic, and the state of emergency declared by the county and/or state in which we live, now is the time to have those tough discussions and take a deeper look at the tools we need to get us through. For parents who are divorced or no longer living together, addressing a crisis can get even more complicated and tense. Here are some resources parents can use to answer the important questions and help guide them in effectively working together and co-parenting through these circumstances:
School and Medical Records
An easy first step that parents can take is to check in with schools and medical providers to ensure that all records are up to date. Most records can be accessed online for quick changes, and this is important when it comes to limiting exposure by not venturing into a busy doctor’s office. While still following the parameters of any existing custody orders or parenting plans, it is wise to check to see if both parents are listed as emergency contacts and if the addresses and emails are all correct so that no updates are missed.
Current Orders and Agreements
In the event of a disagreement about how to address a certain situation during a crisis, both parents should rely on their current Custody Order or Agreement. Of note is that it is unlikely that your custody Order or Agreement contains language specifically regarding a situation like this, but there should be underlying principles to create at least a guideline for how arising issues will be addressed. There should be terms that address legal custody (including decision-making for education and medical issues) and physical custody (who has the children and when) that can be followed in any circumstance.
With unprecedented situations like potential long-term school closures, courthouses being closed, and previously scheduled hearings and trials postponed, it may feel like there are more questions than answers. Your attorney is a good resource for understanding how your current Order or Agreement may be impacted and how to address any issues that are not specifically spelled out. Your attorney may be able to offer solutions, provide insight into how a judge may view deviations from the Order or Agreement, address concerns with the other parent or attorney representing the other parent, or explain how certain provision in your Order or Agreement work under the new circumstances. It may be helpful to consider engaging the services of a third-party mediator, arbitrator, or parenting coordinator to decide any issues that are not answered and may be detrimental to the children involved if delayed.
Anyone who has gone through a divorce or custody battle knows that common sense often goes out the window when dealing with the emotions and stress of being in a custody dispute. Getting your family through the crisis needs to be the common goal of everyone involved. That may mean modifying your current Order or Agreement. It may mean not technically “winning” on an issue but putting your children’s safety and comfort first is paramount. There are resources out there to help. Instead of using social media and reading a hundred different opinions on how the situation should be handled, you can use sites like the CDC , which includes steps and tips for Coronavirus preparedness. View our COVID-19 resource page for more helpful information.