The COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges for all of us. Peoples’ lives are in danger, many businesses are closed and Coloradans likely feel a little isolated by the quarantine. The health and economic factors get many of the headlines, but families face other challenges as well. None more so than divorced parents who actively share responsibility for the care and well-being of their children during these unprecedented times.
The courts here are on a limited schedule, but family law matters like enforcing or restricting parenting time as well as parental abduction may still be heard. If the case is heard, it could be via a video platform like Zoom or using the telephone. The circumstances of each family are different, but the parenting plans generally should remain in place unless one parent is exposed to a known carrier of the virus or diagnosed by a medical professional.
Remembering the priorities
Parents must try to exercise patience during this time. Everyone has a heightened level of stress, and parents need to work together to ensure the safety and well-being of the family. There will likely be circumstances not addressed in the divorce agreement, so the parents serve the interests of the entire family if they tackle obstacles together.
Issues to address
The parents can work together on the following issues:
- Exposure: Parents need to be on the same page when it comes to quarantine. This includes social distancing and being honest with the ex about any exposure risks.
- Video: This may be a viable alternative if the family decides together to limit time with a parent if they are essential personnel (such as a medical professional, public servant or in another profession).
- Understanding: There may be financial challenges where a parent is out of work and not able to pay the usual amount of support. There may even be mental health issues caused by the pandemic where a parent or child needs additional support and help.
- Generosity: Encourage children to reach out to the other parent if they feel isolated even with the regular parenting schedule. Enable a parent to make up any lost visitation time due to self-quarantine.
- Maintain a healthy relationship: Try to avoid weakening (through actions or words) a necessary partnership that will be ongoing after the pandemic passes.
Divorce in the new normal
Many speak of “when things go back to normal,” but there is no going back to the economic, social and personal norm of 2019. The world has changed. Nevertheless, family law agreements regarding support, custody, parenting plans, and other agreements remain as they were unless there is a court-approved modification. Those with questions or concerns should speak with an experienced family law attorney to determine if anything can or should change in light of the new normal.