Co-parenting and COVID-19
by Amanda Singer
This is an unknown and challenging time for everyone, as there are so many changes. For those who are co-parenting in separate households, it can be even more difficult to try to navigate these times. Not knowing when we’ll get to the other side of this only makes the conversation more difficult. We’ve been getting a lot of questions about co-parenting and what to do during this time and will be addressing many of them during our webinar on Thursday, April 2nd, at 2 pm PST (webinar will also be recorded). We also wanted to share answers to some of the most common questions we’ve found on our blog. First and foremost, though, if you find that you’re having a difficult time reaching an agreement with your co-parent on your own, working with a mediator, even for just an hour or two, can allow you to put a plan in place for now.
How does the Shelter in Place Order affect our parenting plan?
Here in CA, Governor Newsom ordered the state on lockdown beginning March 19th. However, this does mean that parenting orders remain in effect, and unfortunately, the courts here in San Diego have not come out with any specific rulings on how co-parents should handle this. That being said, at this time, we’re recommending that if possible and in the best interests of the child(ren) that the current parenting plan order remains in effect. However, parents may want to work together to modify their schedules, so there is less travel involved. In Ontario, Canada, from 3/24/2020, the triage judge for emergency consideration in their superior court ordered that “there is a presumption that all orders should be respected and complied with. More to the point, there is a presumption that the existing order reflects a determination that meaningful personal contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child”. While this wouldn’t control here in California, it’s helpful to think about when you’re thinking about wanting to modify your schedule during this time.
Why can’t the court hear my issue, it’s an emergency to me?
While we understand that your issue feels like an emergency to you. Unfortunately, the San Diego courts at this time are ONLY hearing DVTRO cases. This means that as of the date of writing this article, the courts not only won’t but can’t hear your issue right now. If this situation changes in the future, then we will update our readers; however, at this time, the courts aren’t open. The best way to resolve your issues would be to either work it out together or to work with an online divorce mediator who can help you both address these issues and even draft a temporary parenting plan signed by both parents.
What if my co-parent has firsthand exposure or my child or co-parent is high-risk?
If your co-parent is a health care worker or has potential for firsthand exposure, you may have concerns about your child(ren) spending time with the other parent. These health care workers are on the frontlines, and many of them have voluntarily removed themselves from their parenting plans to keep the child(ren) safe. However, if they haven’t, then this is a discussion you will probably want to have. Finding creative ways to allow your co-parent to be still involved in the child(ren)’s lives while they can’t physically see them might help ease their concerns. If you, your co-parent, child, or someone else in your homes is high-risk, then this may cause other discussions about whether the child going back and forth is in everyone’s best interest. This can be a difficult conversation, but again open and honest communication is going to be the best way to work out a resolution and find a way not to put anyone at risk.
What about costs for the children during this time?
Now that schools and most childcare facilities are closed, and schools will probably remain closed through the summers, there is a lot more time that the children are spending at home, and this can mean potentially increased costs. Additionally, we know that many businesses have had to do lay-offs, restaurants are closed, and others have had to decrease wages to get through this time, which means that many people have less income coming in. Again, as the courts are closed, support orders cannot be modified; however, if this is the case, reaching out to your co-parent to see how you can work this out is necessary. Especially if one or both of you are now working from home, you’ll need to work together to figure out how to make that work while your child(ren) are home.
We can’t discuss these issues without fighting, how do we do this?
Some parents have a good relationship and can work together on their own at this time, and other co-parents have always had issues and never been able to have the conversations. These fears and arguments aren’t necessarily new, but this environment has brought them to a head. While many parents may have been doing parallel parenting because they can’t communicate well, extra-ordinary times cause for extra-ordinary measures, and you’re going to HAVE to communicate with your co-parent. I always suggest starting that conversation by focusing solely on the children and try not blaming the other parent. Again, if you find you can’t do this easily on your own, then I would suggest working with a mediator who can help start that communication and even put in place temporary ways to communicate. If mediation is cost-prohibitive to you at this time, think about any third party in your lives who may be willing to help you have this conversation or see if any of your local mediators are eager to work at a lower rate at this time.
If you have co-parenting issues that you need a mediator to help with contact us, we are doing all online mediation at this time and can work on an hourly basis.