Co-Parenting Guidance During "Stay-At-Home" Order
Co-parenting confusion is alive and well across the US. Many states are under stay-at home orders due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Schools have canceled in person instruction, forcing thousands of students to transition to home schooling or online classes. Thousands of small businesses we enjoy have been forced to close: community centers, gyms, hair and nail salons, neighborhood restaurants and bakeries, libraries, playgrounds, art museums.
Parenting with an ex can be stressful on a good day and require advanced skills of problem solving, communication and working together. Depending on relationship dynamics, any change in custody arrangements can overwhelm parents. A neutral 3rd party may be needed (co-parenting coach or mediator) to figure out how to best to keep their kids safe and meet their needs during this time. I've created a list of the top questions co-parents are asking:
TOP 20 COVID-19 CO-PARENTING QUESTIONS
1. Do I need to follow child custody court orders?
Court orders need to be followed unless both parents agree, in writing, to modify custody arrangements during shelter at home COVID-19 social distancing and stay at home orders. Family Courts across the country has advised COVID-19 and "shelter at home" orders are not a reason to not follow court orders and custody arrangements.
2. Will I be in contempt of court if I choose not to let my children attend visits with the other parent? If you acted in "bad faith" and did not have a valid reason, you likely will be held in contempt.
3. What if the pickup/drop off location is at a park or public place? Parents can still travel to pick up children for visitation, however parents should check ahead to make sure parking lots are still open.
4. What concessions do I need to make if the other parent agrees to forego visits? It is advised to increase phone and Facetime/Zoom time to interact with the other parent/extended family. In addition, the other parent needs to know they will receive makeup time with their children at a later time.
5. Can my kids visit their grandparents? It is advisable to limit in person contact with grandparents and extended family 65 years or older or those with chronic medical conditions. Parents need to agree they will not have family gatherings with more than 10 people. They also need to agree to communicate with the other parent about their child's activities.
6. Can my kids go to the park? Yes, playing at the park is acceptable as long as your kids maintain a 6 ft. distance from people they do not live with. Refrain from using playground equipment to avoid spreading COVID-19. Fishing, flying kites, riding bikes and walking/jogging are all acceptable activities. Wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer often when out in public.
7. What steps should I take to avoid bringing COVID-19 into my home? As your children return home from visits with the other parent, create a place in your home for them to remove their clothing and wash promptly. Also, be sure to wash sheets and linens regularly in warm water. Ask the other parent to be diligent about hand washing before and after meals, using the bathroom, leaving the house and coming home.
8. Can my children play outside? Yes, however they need to maintain social distance from other neighborhood children and neighbors. Fresh air and exercise are needed to help maintain a healthy immune system and maintain healthy levels of serotonin, the "feEl good" brain chemical.
9. My co-parent is better at teaching/home schooling. Should I forego visitation for the next 30 days? This is an important consideration. Children still need to receive educational instruction. In some ways, being home schooled by the parent with a more flexible schedule or natural teaching and organizational abilities makes sense. If both parents can agree to a modified plan, be sure it is in writing.
10. My co-parent has more space than I do. Is it better for my kids to stay there?
Physical space is a big consideration as well. If one parent has a deck, backyard or extra space for children to play in, this may be a better arrangement. It can also be helpful for kids to go to the other parent's home, just to be able to go somewhere.
There are many ways to balance the need to see the other parent and minimize risk to COVID-19. Some parents can share a meal together and may welcome the other parent to spend time in their home for an evening during the week or for several hours on the weekend.
For more information, please call 913-244-8786 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Minges, M.S. is a co-parenting coach and Owner of Playful Awareness. She helps divorced or separated parents co-parent with grace, compassion and kindness by teaching skills of mindfulness, empowerment and assertiveness while helping parents consider how their actions impact their co-parenting relationship and the health and well-being of their kids.