During times of uncertainty, such as these, how to manage parenting time for separated parents can cause heightened anxiety. However, adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories so it is important to try to be healthy, follow the CDC guidelines, be mindful and discuss the issue with your children truthfully but also on a level that is age-appropriate. Remain calm, as children, like all others, tend to feed off energies around them.
With court orders and custody agreements, for the time being, continue to be mindfully compliant. As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The court agreement exists to prevent endless haggling over the details of timesharing. If schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as though school were still in session.
At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to fly or travel unnecessarily, with some communities being told to remain indoors unless totally necessary. 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. Plans will inevitably have to change. If schedules do change out of necessity, encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games and FaceTime or Skype; continue communication in any way possible. Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if possible, in the future.
Further, be open and transparent with your fellow co-parent. Provide honest information between you 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. Again, communication is key. Certainly, both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.
Lastly, 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.
As we get through this crisis together, remember, it is important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep them safe.
During these uncertain times, we remain committed to graciously serving all your professional legal needs. Please know that we remain fully open for business for you, for us, and for the benefit of our incredible community. We are trying to limit appointments to phone only whenever possible, but know we remain available to help the community as we have for over 25 years. We will get through this together, remain strong for one another.
Scott Bucy and Bob Good practice law in southern Oregon, specializing in family law, estate planning/administration, property and business law. Contact them at their Ashland office at (541) 482-3763.