Writing "COVID-19 has severely impacted the lives of US citizens" would be an understatement at this point. From ravaging the economy to completely changing how we live our day-to-day lives, there's hardly a single part of life in the US that COVID hasn't touched.
Child custody arrangements and parenting plans are no exception. Child custody emerged as an unexpected battleground between co-parents, setting off family law disputes across the nation.
If you haven't considered changing your parenting plan in the wake of COVID-19, you should. Today, we're discussing how you can adjust your parenting plan to prepare for events like COVID and strengthen your co-parenting relationship.
Consider How You Want to Tackle the Summer
At this point, there's still a month or two of summer left (depending on where and when you read this) before the kids start getting ready to go back to school. Take advantage of the time to reconsider your parenting plan and make any necessary adjustments.
Something things you might want to think about include:
- Will COVID-19 affect any summer vacations you have planned? Countries are now refusing access to US citizens due to the escalating number of coronavirus cases in the US. Think about rescheduling your vacation if necessary, and take the proper precautions when researching where to go (like making sure you aren't headed to a coronavirus hotspot). A staycation may be a safer option this summer—just make sure both parents know when the other intends to take a vacation with the kids (if both parties have one lined up).
- Consider how COVID-19 affected your child's education last year. Many schools were suddenly forced to shut down and provide online learning options for students. However, not all online learning programs are ideal. If you notice your child slipping academically, it might be wise to try and get them back on track by hiring a tutor or working with them yourself. Both co-parents should be on the same page as far as furthering their child's education and should have the same academic expectations.
- Think about how you and your co-parent can support your child emotionally this summer. Many kids missed out on important life events, like prom and graduation, due to COVID-19. Take some time and think of an experience you and your co-parent can provide to make your child's summer a little more fun. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture—even the little things, like grabbing their favorite meal from a nearby restaurant as a surprise, can make a big difference. Talk with your co-parent about what sort of positive changes you can make t to help your child have a positive experience this summer.
Discuss How to Handle COVID-19
Initially, medical professionals thought that children were less affected by COVID-19. However, further research indicates that children can suffer negative effects from the coronavirus.
The New York State Department of Health issued an advisory in May warning healthcare providers that children who contracted COVID-19 were also experiencing acute inflammatory symptoms similar to Kawasaki Disease. The State Department warned that symptoms included "persistent fever, abdominal symptoms, rash, and even cardiovascular symptoms requiring intensive care."
Co-parents should take COVID-19 seriously, and do everything in their power to protect their children from contracting it. That means following CDC guidelines for caring for children during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as regularly washing hands and disinfecting surfaces, wearing masks, adhering to social distancing guidelines, etc.
If one of the parents is an essential worker, both parties should discuss how to handle that. Alternatives to physical custody, like using regular video-chats to keep in touch, can help keep kids safe.
Taking certain precautions—like hosting virtual playdates instead of having your children meet their friends out in public—can go a long way towards keeping your kids safe.
Discuss the Future
For many Americans, the future is uncertain. Over 40 million Americans have lost their job to the COVID-19 pandemic (so far), creating economic instability.
Additionally, concerns about the Trump Administration's push to reopen schools are mounting. As we already covered, children are at a real risk of developing harmful side effects from the coronavirus, and we don't even know what all the long-term effects of contracting the virus are yet.
You should sit down with your co-parent and honestly discuss the future. If one of you has lost their job, how's the job search going? What are their prospects? Will you need to adjust a child support arrangement you have in place? What about school? Do you agree or disagree on whether your child should attend school if physical attendance is mandatory?
Answering these questions may not be easy or comfortable. But it can go a long way towards establishing safety for your child and laying the foundation for a positive co-parenting relationship moving forward.
At Simmons & Associates, we help parents protect their rights in the courtroom and pursue their child's best interests in custody battles.
To learn more about our firm or schedule a consultation for your custody case, contact us online or via phone at (405) 591-2284.