Co-Parenting During the Time of COVID-19
Co-parenting is not easy even without a global pandemic that threatens lives. When people are placed under stress and lives are turned upside down, co-parenting may be even more challenging. Since more than 1,300 stepfamilies form each day, being able to co-parent during exigent circumstances is more important than ever.
Be Flexible Above All Else Right Now
In general, the first thing to consider is the need for flexibility. Both parents are under stress right now and may be dealing with their own challenges as their lives and economic situations are uprooted. One parent could have a demanding work schedule because they are considered an essential worker. Alternatively, parents may have summer vacation plans cancelled or delayed because of COVID-19.
Working with the other parent can go a long way during this crisis. The ability to co-parent harmoniously depends in part on being accommodating without being confrontational. In fact, if you and the other parent can work together through a challenging time, it can help strengthen the co-parenting relationship when normal times return in the future. While the custody agreement still exists, try to deviate from it cooperatively if it is necessary.
Parents Can Still See Their Children
Many parents have asked whether stay-at-home orders will keep them from being able to spend their custodial time with their children. All non-essential travel has been restricted, and many states are telling their residents to avoid travelling outside of the state.
However, this does not keep parents from being able to leave the home to pick up or drop off their children. When there is a custody agreement in place, it is the controlling factor. With that in mind, parents can still keep to their custody schedules and would even be expected to do so. There may be times when the schedule needs to be changed, but transportation should not be an issue.
Court Hearings Will Be Difficult to Get Right Now
Family courts are still operating to the extent that they are able. However, courts will likely be dealing with emergency matters first right now and would postpone things that are not urgent. Parents who are trying to get in front of the judge right now should keep in mind that they may not be heard unless it is a critical matter.
However, parents should also understand that their matter will eventually get to court, and judges may not appreciate unilateral decisions. This is especially true if it curtails one parent’s right to see their children. Even if there may not be a contempt hearing now, the other parent will still eventually be able to get some legal relief. Thus, even if you are not seeing or hearing from the judge, the custody agreement is still in effect, and you will eventually be in front of the judge. Thus, it is vital to fully respect the other parent’s custodial rights.
You Cannot Be Kept From Your Child
Some parents may be financially struggling with job loss or reduced income. Unfortunately, many of them may be having difficulty making their monthly child support payment. They can always apply for a modification, but the court system is moving more slowly right now due to COVID-19 challenges.
Child support and custody are two completely separate issues. If you are owed child support and the other parent has fallen into arrears, they still have the right to be able to see their children. Any steps to keep a parent from seeing a child because they are not paying child support could lead to contempt of court because it is a breach of the custody agreement. A divorce lawyer in Cherry Hill can advise those who are falling behind on the process for a modification.
Remember that when it comes to dealing with the other parent during the coronavirus crisis, take a deep breath and try to work together.
If you are having difficulties or simply want to know more about how COVID-19 impacts co-parenting, reach out to the divorce lawyers at Morgenstern & Rochester. Call us today at (856) 489-6200 to set up your consultation in Cherry Hill.