Never did I imagine I would be writing a blog post about parenting your kids in the time of a pandemic as the coronavirus sweeps its way around the world and has temporarily forced us into our homes. With companies shuttered, schools closed, and curfews in place for many, we are faced with the reality of trying work from home (if even possible), parenting our kids, educating our kids who are learning online, keeping our kids from killing each other while we try to continue working from home, and otherwise doing anything we can to even remember what day it is.
The stress on all parents caused by our new temporary normal is immeasurable, but it is even more so on divorced and separated parents struggling to understand how to abide by parenting time schedules, medical questions, education concerns, and so much more. We have heard from many clients who are dealing with such issues and reasonably believe that they are forced to decide between abiding by words in an agreement or court order, or potentially exposing their child to the virus. Even when faced with such a decision, the options are less than ideal as people are forced to decide whether to do nothing at all, privately settle these issues, or file emergency applications with courts that are also trying to figure out how to continue operating while their physical doors are closed to the public.
With that in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind as parents (divorced or otherwise) as we go through this moment in time:
Following Parenting Time Schedules
No one can blame you as a parent if you do not want your children to leave the home to go to the other parent’s home for scheduled time. Not because you do not want the children with the other parent (which may ordinarily be the case), but because you are nervous that the children will potentially be exposed to the virus if they leave the home and go elsewhere. On the other hand, no one can blame the other parent for wanting to see the children while this is all going on and expecting that the parenting schedule be followed. The parenting schedules exist and should be designed to avoid these types of conflicts even if this exact situation is unprecedented.
Each situation is going to present a different set of circumstances that will weigh upon what should happen, but parents should do what they can to resolve these issues because it is unknown what a court will do and when they will do it should you choose to file an emergency application. For instance, how far away do the parties reside from each other? Are grandparents involved where they may be at a greater risk? Co-parenting is more critical now than ever, but it will also be more challenging. In some cases, the dispute simply is not going to work out and you will have no choice but to get a judge involved. This, however, should be a course of last resort and you should work together to avoid conflict, show some level of flexibility if possible, and focus more on helping you and your children get through each day. For instance, perhaps relaxing when and for how long the other parent can communicate with the children on FaceTime or the phone, devising some form of make-up time, and the like will aid in alleviating a potentially acrimonious situation.
Get On the Same Page When Making Decisions for the Children
When parenting from home, teaching your children, making sure they get their homework done, keeping them clean and sanitized, and watching their every move, every laugh, every cry, every tantrum, every cough and more, it is important to remember that if you share legal custody with the other parent that it is best to keep them updated as to what is going on. While you do not need to provide updates of every detail of every day, it would be best to keep the other parent apprised on the children’s schoolwork and health, even if that means letting the other parent know that the kids are struggling with school work or, more importantly, that you believe a visit to the doctor is necessary for whatever reason.
Also try to be on the same page with the other parent as to how you discuss what is happening with the children and how you should act around them. Many children are too young to understand what is going on (in fact, many of us cannot comprehend what is going on) and seeing that their parents on are on the same page will provide a sense of calm, stability and routine. You may be in a better place to make decisions when the children are with you, but this is not the time to shut out the other parent or minimize their involvement.
In fact, this may be even more important if you are on the verge of separating from the other parent or going through a divorce while still living together in the same household. Living together while your relationship is coming to an end presents its own endless sets of stressors, which makes it even more important to keep the everyday acrimony between each other at a minimum for your children. The children need to see a united front for their own well-being. In certain situations, this simply may not be possible, but it is something to keep in mind as you focus on both bringing your marriage to an end and carrying your children through this.
Keep Your Sanity
We all get it because we are all going through this, whether divorced, divorcing, separated, or none of the above. This unimaginable situation presents challenges that we have never faced, but it is so important to remember that it is only a moment in time. The mental stress and physical toll from following the news, caring for your children, getting your own work done and trying to moving forward involves a balancing act like no other.
Do what you can, if you can, to grab a few minutes for yourself to preserve your sanity. Go for a walk or run or do some sort of exercise. Read a book. Listen to music. Grab a glass of wine, or a bottle, or two. Whether you decide to lock yourself in the laundry room for an hour just to escape your children asking when the next meal is coming, where the iPad charger is or something else is completely up to you. Kidding, not kidding. My son and I have been playing enough basketball in our driveway that I’m convinced when this is over, he will be ready for the NBA when the season resumes. This moment in time is going to come to an end, we will all move on with our lives, and will look back and wonder how we all got through it.
Dedicated to Protecting Your Rights
If you find yourself in need of an attorney, Ziegler, Resnick & Epstein will be on your side. Our goal is to strongly advocate for the best interests of our clients to ensure they are satisfied with the outcome of their case.
Call our firm at (973) 878-4373 or contact us online to schedule your consultation.