The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought an onslaught of challenges for many in Texas and across the nation. For those who are divorced or separated, these challenges have been particularly difficult to navigate when children are involved. Because of this – along with the difficulties that can come with divorce to begin with – knowing how to effectively co-parent during COVID-19 can help parents and children find peace of mind during these particularly arduous times.
Co-Parenting During a Pandemic
COVID-19 has thrust many parents already dealing with the sometimes-strenuous aspects of divorce and co-parenting into turmoil. With many children now attending school online from home, along with parents also working from home, daily and weekly routines have been thrown to the wind. Not only that, but concerns and anxieties over health and finances have also mounted, leaving parents wondering what their best options are to ensure their families are safe.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott initially issued a disaster declaration in March declaring that COVID-19, posed an imminent threat for all counties in the Lone Star State. This order has since been extended several times and currently remains in place. According to the Texas Supreme Court, which issued the ‘Seventh Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster,’ co-parenting and child custody arrangements have been affected (or unaffected) in the following ways:
- The current trial court orders about possession of and access to children will remain in effect during this crisis.
- The 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. Meaning that child exchanges between parents are still required.
- If the existing possession order allows it, the parties can agree to change the possession schedule, despite the pandemic.
What Parents Can Do
Parents can do several things to ensure successful and safe co-parenting measures are taken, including:
Create a Plan
Although sometimes working with an ex-spouse can be difficult, it’s important that parents work together to develop a way to co-parent successfully during these unique times. Sharing important information with each other regarding work and school schedules as well as cleanliness measures can help develop a plan that works for both children and parents.
This plan should attempt to address things like educating children on COVID-19 and the health and safety measures that should be used by both parents and children in each home. Additionally, virtual, hybrid, or in-person schooling should be addressed, as well as visitation schedules and any potential concerns that may arise.
Look for Ways to Optimize Time
A well thought out pandemic co-parenting plan should assist both parents’ work and parenting schedules, as well as the school and activity schedules for the children involved. Because of this, looking for schedule adjustments that each parent can make to optimize time can be incredibly helpful.
For example, if one parent has an upcoming workday that includes multiple back to back Zoom calls but has a relatively flexible schedule for the rest of the week, it can be helpful to adapt the possession schedule for those days. Or if it makes the most sense for children to do virtual classes from one parent’s home in the morning, then the other parent can take on afternoons.
Focus on Safety
Now more than ever, it’s incredibly important for parents to be selfless with regard to co-parenting in order to focus on the health and safety of the children involved. Children should be well aware of the importance of mask wearing and frequent hand washing, while parents should communicate with each other on how they plan to keep up with the cleaning and sanitization of each home.
Additionally, if either parent is spending time away from home, whether at the office or in social situations with others, it should be communicated. While one parent may know whom they have been in contact with and how safe those around them are being, they may not be aware of how safe the other parent is being. While this may appear to be prying, it is more beneficial in the long run to know the ins and outs of each other’s schedule in order to avoid a parent or child contracting the coronavirus.
Keep Open Communications
As with most relationships, communication is key. While this may not be the easiest thing for some co-parents, it is absolutely essential – especially during a pandemic. Keeping all lines of communication open while ensuring any potential concerns are voiced and addressed can help keep co-parenting running smoothly. However, if co-parenting communication is already challenging, parents should identify what they want to communicate, the best time to talk with the other parent, and the best medium for that communication – and communicate with intention.
For instance, if one parent knows the other parent is busier in the mornings than in the afternoons and prefers to text rather than talk on the phone, then it would be more effective to reach out via text when it’s easiest for them to respond. This can help prevent a potential barrage of calls, texts, or emails from a parent.
During this time, co-parent communications should address any health and safety issues, openness to the other parent’s co-parenting ideas, and potential compromises. It’s incredibly important to be empathetic with one another and not to attempt to force one idea over another in order to ensure that communication is both effective and takes the other parent’s concerns into account.
Brazoria County Family Law Attorneys
For many divorced or separated parents, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into co-parenting schedules and plans. While these are challenging times, it’s important to openly communicate with one another and form a plan that benefits both parents as well as children. At Terry & Roberts, we understand just how unique these times are and will work with you to ensure that your divorce, child custody, and co-parenting needs are met. If you need assistance with an experienced family law attorney that strives to provide a welcoming environment to clients who need it most, contact us today to discuss your needs.