The holiday season is well underway, and this year we find ourselves in a first in a lifetime situation with a global pandemic hitting full stride just as we are getting ready to deck the halls. As a parent, this time of year can already be emotional and challenging enough without dealing with a public health crisis.
The growing questions and concerns you as a parent might have are justifiable and demonstrate the struggles divorced families are going through during this unprecedented time. We hope this article helps prepare you for a less conflict-filled holiday while co-parenting during this crisis.
If you find yourself sharing parenting time during the pandemic, you’ve likely noticed things like scheduling and necessary communication have become even more challenging. Everything is more amplified with the virus looming over everyday activities.
You’re lucky if you and your ex are cordial and can manage parenting time respectfully. Many co-parenting situations are filled with distrust and even vindictiveness. It’s important to remember the children are the ones that suffer the most when their parents fight.
Many times parents don’t realize or forget how sensitive children can be. We would suggest being hyper-focused on their changing environments and keep them from as much conflict as possible. Seemingly small incidents can sometimes have large, long-last effects on your kids even if they’re in another room hearing only one side of an argument.
As adults, we all know there really shouldn’t be screaming matches and childish behavior. But sometimes, in the heat of an argument, we can lose our cool. If, in retrospect, you feel like you acted this way, try to calm yourself quickly and take it as a lesson for the next time. Remember that this type of behavior can only make the situation worse and teaches your children how to handle stress and conflict. Take every moment as a learning experience for both you and your child. Light arguing and disagreements are one thing, but if it becomes unproductive with name-calling and screaming, that is unhealthy for everyone involved.
With COVID peaking again this season, a challenging custody situation can become even more difficult. Some parents are asking firms like ours how they can position the pandemic to keep their children with them and safe over the holidays.
We know that parents will go to any length to ensure their children’s safety, but sometimes what seems like the right choice for your kids isn’t necessarily the lawful one.
Parents thinking of doing anything that violates the terms of their custody agreement should contact their attorney before taking any action. It is best to ensure everyone is playing by the rules.
Most attorneys tell their clients to follow their court order but, if need, find ways to be flexible and reasonable with each other. If you can work together for temporary COVID-related custody agreement changes, you will save time, money, and stress. This discipline is easier said than done, especially if you can’t come to terms. Disagreements on the best course of action are possible and sometimes likely, but today’s rash action will likely have consequences tomorrow.
During COVID, each parent must realize that their parenting habits will significantly affect each other’s households more than they did pre-pandemic. Because children are silent “super-spreaders” (no signs of sickness, but lots of possible contact), they can bring viruses back and forth to each parent’s home without anyone knowing.
If either household has grandparents or other at-risk people in or around one’s home, even more precautions are needed. Parents also shouldn’t underplay the typical cough or runny nose during this time. While some parents might not like to hear it, keeping children longer in one place, keeping them more isolated, and testing them can help reduce the risk for both families.
Now is not the time to be reactionary on your children’s custody plan. Talk with your ex before anyone has had any exposure. Then put a plan in place that you can both agree upon if someone is exposed or diagnosed. It is best to get this plan in writing, and your lawyer can help you with that, but the essential part is to have an open discussion and try to come to terms that are best for your kids. Be sure to define who will take or keep your children. How long they will have them for quarantine if needed. And what conditions must be met from both sides to allow the kids to travel between homes once again.
Both Colorado and California have clear guidelines in place for quarantining once a person has been exposed or diagnosed and how long they should wait to leave quarantine once a negative COVID test result is reported.
Depending on the location around the country, stats tell us over 80% of custody issues are settled without a judge. This is good news since months of closed courts have built quite a backlog. The point here is that unless you have an emergency, asking courts to make a quick decision for the holidays is unrealistic.
Parents need to figure out how to manage on their own. Of course, if one parent is blatantly breaking the rules of their custody agreement, the other parent may be forced to contact the court, if for nothing else, to have the call on record. Without having this type of activity recorded, it’s hard to defend your actions or inactions once you get back in front of the courts and any opposing counsel.
Try to find ways to play nice and keep your children from conflict as much as possible. Make sure they’re enjoying their youth during this holiday season. They will remember this pandemic in their way as they age, and you play a primary part in ensuring they will remember the 2020 holiday warmly.
We also have a co-parenting online scheduler that may offer some additional help. As always, you can reach out to one of our Colorado or California attorneys for further questions.
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