Corey M. Nichols
5 Best Practices for Co-Parenting During COVID-19
Co-parenting always demands the most of you and your family, and of course, COVID-19 has only made life more difficult. The pandemic has been moving at a pace that the law and the courts cannot match. You may find that your custody and timesharing orders don’t answer all the questions you have about what to do in confusing, and possibly emergency circumstances. In that case, we’ve compiled some of the common advice we’ve given to our clients to help them navigate their custody cases.
Of course, this may not fit your exact circumstance, and you shouldn’t rely on what we’ve said here without checking in with your lawyer, or giving us a call first.
- Communicate With Your Co-Parent: This is simple advice, but can still be tough to follow. It is always best to be open and communicative with your co-parent about your children. We encourage our clients to talk frequently via text message or e-mail, but of course talking in person during exchanges is always a good idea, too, and it helps your children see that you’re on the same page in wanting what’s best for them. As new and strange circumstances arise, get ahead of them before they become a problem by sharing them with your co-parent, and asking that they do the same for you.
- Be Flexible: This works best when both parties are giving in equal measure. Your daily lives are fluid and prone to change, especially in a pandemic; court orders are very rigid and uncompromising. If you and your co-parent find that a particular circumstance needs to change from that the judge has said, don’t be afraid to agree to do what will best serve your children.
- Don’t Disobey Court Orders: When you and your co-parent can’t agree on doing something different, do not take it upon yourself to think that you “know better” than what the judge has already ordered. If you choose not to follow a court order without the agreement of your co-parent, always assume that you’ll need to explain to the judge why you did so. If they don’t think you were acting in good faith, they could hold you in contempt! Do your very best to follow what the order says, and if you think it needs to change, find the best way to ask the judge to change it.
- Talk to Your Lawyer: A law firm blog telling you that you need to talk to a lawyer is like a barber telling you that you need a haircut. We get it. But your lawyer has knowledge that Google can’t give you: like an understanding of what your judge has done in cases just like yours that have come to their courtroom. It’s possible that if you and your co-parent are having disagreements about a particular issue, your lawyer could tell you what your judge has done in those cases, and recommend some ideas to try before filing motions or asking the court to officially weigh in. Ultimately, talking with an attorney who has a breadth of knowledge about how the courts are handling these unknowns could save you a lot of time and money.
- Be Generous: The biggest priority at the moment should be your family’s health. Sometimes that may mean that you or your co-parent will be unavailable to have valuable time with your children, whether for a quarantine or some other valid reason. Remember that everyone is doing the best they can, and generously offer your co-parent “make up time” if they need to miss out for health reasons. It’s not just best for your children, but it also shows the judge that you’re working in good faith to resolve any issues.