In the best of times, co-parenting can be challenging but when you add in a pandemic and the start of a new school year, the situation can feel downright impossible, especially if you and your ex have difficulty seeing eye to eye. During COVID-19 your family’s safety is a top priority. If you and your co-parent aren’t in agreement about quarantining and social distancing your instincts may tell you to override their input to protect your children.

Recently, a mother from Iowa was found in contempt and sentenced to 10 days in jail for refusing to return her children to their father during his scheduled visitation time. The article Mom Found in Contempt For Not Following Custody Ruling Due to COVID-19 Concerns notes she was worried about their safety and didn’t believe her ex was following the recommended health guidelines. Rulings like this underscore the importance of making co-parenting work during COVID-19, here’s how to do it.

 

Plan Ahead

The start of the school year is a great time to review your parenting agreement or order and, with the extra challenges created by COVID-19, it’s more important than ever. Your parenting agreement should reflect the unique challenges this year will present. Divorce Magazine.com notes, “Last Spring, some parents were confused as to whether Spring Break and teacher ‘professional development’ days and school holiday schedules outlined in their custodial documents should be followed when children were remote learning. If you have questions about this, review your custodial documents and begin conversations with your co-parent about this now.”

Other COVID-19 related situations to consider are:

  • Who will pick your child up from school should they be sent home with COVID-19 related symptoms? 
  • If your child is learning remotely, what are each co-parent’s responsibilities to make that possible? 
  • What will you do if you or your co-parent become sick and unable to care for your children during your scheduled time? 
  • What will you do if your co-parent or someone in their home is in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

 

Focus on Continuous Communication

Communication is always an essential piece of co-parenting, and now more than ever you should be committed to continuous communication not only between you and your co-parent but also between you and your children.

If you disagree about social distancing measures, Lisa Zeiderman, a divorce attorney usually advises both parents to “telephone their child’s pediatrician or health care provider and agree ahead of time to follow their advice.” 

If you and your ex aren’t able to agree on your pediatrician’s advice, you can consult your family law attorney to help mediate the conversation or you may even consider couples therapy. Cedar Tree Men and Couples Therapist Matthew Hanlon says in the article How Couples Therapy Works, that this type of therapy can help you create a process to deal with conflict. He notes, “Identifying the process is crucial to the work of couples therapy.” Once you’ve created a problem-solving process you can put it to use now, during COVID-19, and in the future.

 

To help streamline the co-parenting communication process and document your efforts there are a variety of third-party apps available to help.

 

  • Talking Parents: This app provides an unalterable record of conversations between you and your co-parent as well as a shared calendar and other helpful co-parenting features. 
  • Our Family Wizard: Within this app, you will find a shared calendar, an unalterable message board, and an expense log among other useful features to help your COVID-19 co-parenting communication. 
  • We Parent: This co-parenting app helps you communicate and manage custody schedules and documents. It also provides you with a secure messaging feature.

With planning and on-going communication, it is possible to make co-parenting work during COVID-19. If you need help talking to your co-parent or child during this difficult time Cedar Tree Counseling’s experienced therapists are here to help.

Jessica Korzyniewski contributed to this article.

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