6 TIPS FOR CO-PARENTING THROUGH COVID-19
by Kevin Segler
Co-parenting children can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Amidst a global pandemic like COVID-19, co-parenting can seem next to impossible. Parents may have increased anxiety and stress due to extra obstacles. For example, “shelter-in-place”, remote work transitions, job loss or hiatus, or homeschooling. With that, effective co-parenting is more important than ever.
COVID-19 has thrust parents and children to be at home (and often required to stay at home). School has been canceled. Parents are working from home (or at home looking for new employment). Former daily and weekly routines for parents and children vanished almost overnight. Fear and anxiety mount about the dangers of COVID-19, how to keep loved ones safe, and the looming economic and financial impacts of this pandemic.
As a result, many parents who now trying to work at home are also caring for and educating their children. Moreover, co-parents living in different homes are learning how to navigate these challenges.
Effective co-parenting is in the children’s best interest and can benefit each co-parent. To clarify a few things, on March 24, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued “Seventh Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster”.
- Current trial court orders about possession of and access to children remain in effect during this crisis;
- Possession and access orders are not affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement issued by a governmental entity due to the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., you are still required to exchange children even when a shelter-in-place order is in effect); and
- If the existing possession order allows it, parties can agree to change the possession schedule. (Note: The vast majority of possession orders allow parties to alter possession periods by agreement).
With the above in mind, here are 6 tips to effectively co-parent through the COVID-19 crisis:
Create a Co-Parenting Plan and Structure for the Children
There is likely a better way to do things during these unique times. So, work together to develop a co-parenting to reinstate structure. Sharing important information will help develop a co-parenting plan that works best for the children and both parents. Be open with one another about the crisis’ impact on your lives. Discuss how those changes may impact co-parenting time and abilities.
A co-parenting plan during the COVID-19 pandemic should, at least, try to address:
- How to educate the children about COVID-19 related health risks for them, other family members, and the general public.
- What health and safety measures the children and each parent’s home will adopt;
- How each household will address homeschooling;
- The children’s daily routines and structure to put in place at both homes;
- If a different, temporary, possession schedule is beneficial for the children and/or the parents;
- How to communicate important matters involving the children or co-parenting plan; and
- Any concerns either co-parent may have and possible solutions to ease those concerns.
COVID-19 Safety and Disease Prevention Measures
The co-parenting plan needs to include safety and disease prevention measures for the children in general and for each home. Germs at one home can easily travel with the children to the other parent’s home. Moreover, those germs can travel anywhere they, transmitting to whomever they encounter. Putting these measures in place at both homes make it safer for the children, other household members, and the general public. Many safety and disease prevention measures are not extreme such as:
- Regular handwashing;
- Social distancing;
- Regularly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
Develop a structure and a strategy for homeschooling in both homes. Now parents get to play teacher and parent. Structuring the homeschooling curriculum similarly will benefit the children and both co-parents. Children will know what to expect at each location and have consistency.
Find Ways to Optimize the Situation for the Children and Co-Parents
A well-done co-parenting plan can help both parents’ wok productivity and parenting. Look for win-win adjustments that each parent can make. For instance, one parent has all-day video conferences most Mondays and Tuesdays. But their schedule is flexible for the rest of the week. Change up the weekly periods of possession for those days. Or, it makes the most sense for the children to homeschool at one parent’s home in the morning. Then, homeschool at the other parent’s house in the afternoon. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. But, there is usually one or more ways to optimize the situation for everyone involved
Focus on Selflessness and Safety First
More than ever, it is important to set aside grievances with your co-parent and be selfless. This will allow both parents to focus on the children and their safety.
Turn on the news or get on the internet and you can find tragedy all around. Most parents would agree that their children’s safety and welfare are paramount. Let that be the goal that you and your co-parent strive for each day.
One example of putting the children’s health and safety first might look like:
One parent voluntarily sacrifices or defers a possession period. The other co-parent works with them to allow make-up time when any safety issues have lessened. (Note: This does not mean that one parent should necessarily get to keep the children for the duration of this pandemic.)
As with most things with life and relationships, communication is crucial. Communication may not come easy for many co-parents but, it needs to happen.
If co-parenting communication is a challenge, identify “what, when and how”.
- What to communicate;
- When to communicate; and
- How to communicate.
The communication “what, when and how” plan may lessen a barrage of calls, texts, and emails from the one parent.
Here are some DO’s and DON’Ts examples for co-parent communication:
- DO communicate all household health and safety issues with the co-parent.
- DO communicate with your co-parent to discuss and develop a COVID-19 co-parenting plan.
- DON’T try to force your co-parenting ideas on the other parent.
- DO be open to their crisis co-parenting arrangement ideas.
- Do try to make. Compromises when the children’s, other family members’, or the public’s health, safety, and welfare are not a concern.
- DO be empathetic to your co-parent. COVID-19 has quickly turned most everyone’s lives and circumstances upside down very. Some worse than others. Despite the difficulties you are facing, try to understand your co-parent’s difficulties too. Realize that the better you can work with your co-parent, the better parents you both can be to your children.
- DO increase communication with your co-parent when necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. With the world as it is, it is reasonable to lend a bit of extra reassurance about your children’s health and safety.
- DON’T call and text your co-parent every five minutes asking for a status update when all was well five minutes ago. That communication style is invasive and aggravating. Further, it may discourage them from relaying future unnecessary yet important communication. That communication style is also likely detrimental to your children.
It may be difficult or uncomfortable to discuss and build a crisis co-parenting plan. But a give-and-take agreed-upon plan will benefit the children and both co-parents.
Co-parenting can be a challenge, especially during a crisis. If you have child custody and child visitation questions or needs, consult an experienced Dallas/Fort Worth family law attorney at KoonsFuller today.
Co-parenting can be challenging, with or without a crisis. We hope that the above 6 Tips for Co-Parenting through COVID-19 is beneficial to you and your family.
If you feel you are in need of additional support to navigate co-parenting, contact family law board-certified and child custody / child visitation attorney Kevin Segler. Or, call one of our five family law and divorce offices located in Dallas, Denton, Houston, Plano and Southlake / Fort Worth to schedule a consultation with one of our licensed attorneys. The consultation provides you with an opportunity to ask questions and receive honest feedback.
We take great pride in representing our friends and neighbors throughout the State of Texas. We hope that you give us the opportunity to represent you and your family should the need arise.