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During the past several weeks, we at BMB Law have fielded many calls from concerned parents who have joint “shared” custody during the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The health risks to children from traveling and residing at one parent’s household to the other parent’s household can create tension regarding visitation and child exchanges. Determining what is best for the children should be the true intention of the parents and should help guide them toward making decisions during this time.
Violating a court order of an agreed upon parenting plan can have serious repercussions and I recommend seriously against using the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to violate a shared parenting plan. It is a reality that many of our local Courts have been temporarily shutting down and/or holding hearings remotely. This makes it extremely difficult to have any timely court intervention on a custody dispute. I recommend that you follow the current court order regarding visitation unless doing so would create serious risk or irreparable harm to the children regarding their health, safety and welfare. There must be trust that each parent can practice effective social distancing while they have custody of the children. Additionally, parents should take the necessary steps to prevent harm that parental alienation can have on a parent-child relationship.
I believe that in lieu of immediate court action, joint custody parents need to be cooperative and flexible with the other parent more than ever during these times. With court intercession not the most feasible option, you can always reach out to a domestic relations attorney if you need assistance in mediating any custody related issue. Mediation involves a third-party assisting parents by giving an objective view of the dispute and providing plausible ideas to resolve the issue. Remember that healthy communication and discussing strategies ahead of time between parents is the key to making these tough decisions and to not having these disputes in the first place.
With all of the recent advancements, parents should take advantage of technology to remain connected with their child if they cannot be physically present due to the stay at home order or self-quarantining if necessary. Video calls (Facetime, Skype, Zoom, etc.) can allow the other parent to remain involved in the child’s daily activities and to have meaningful face to face communication during reasonable hours.
As schools and day-care centers have been closed for quite some time, parents need to also assist and ensure that their children are keeping current on all e-learning activities. Keeping a calendar or journal to share with the other parent can help keep both parents current on the child’s progress. Both parents need to work together to keep the children’s schedule as regular as possible based on what they have been used to. Many courts support the use of cell phone apps, such as Talking Parents and Family Wizard, to assist parents in communicating effectively and sharing documents. Demonstrating consistency on a regular basis will assist the child in their continued development, and aid parents in navigating these difficult times.
Finally, don’t be afraid to address any psychological trauma that you or your children are dealing with during this time. Try not to allow the stress of COVID-19 to carry over in a negative manner and affect your children’s relationship with either parent. If you feel it to be necessary, address these issues through counseling or some other form of positive therapy. Also don’t forget to take some time to yourself when possible as parenting during COVID-19, although extremely rewarding, can be very demanding and exhausting.
After all, isn’t COVID-19 stressful enough without custody disputes?
At Blakemore, Meeker & Bowler Co., L.P.A., our experienced Domestic Relations attorneys are dedicated to assisting parents during this difficult time. We do not want you to feel alone and are here to assist you with any domestic issue. Please contact a BMB Law attorney at (330)-603-8443 if you wish to schedule a domestic consultation.