How will Parenting Plans be Impacted by the Coronavirus Lockdown?
The COVID-19 outbreak has been especially hard on families. Many parents have lost their jobs, while others are working from home or still going to work in the “essential” jobs that may require long hours and a lot of overtime. The kids are also home from school and doing distance learning while all of this is going on.
These schedule disruptions and other factors like travel restrictions could make it very difficult to follow the parenting plan that was originally agreed upon. A child custody/visitation plan that once made sense might now be unachievable or extremely difficult to achieve. Another common issue that might come up is parents who do not see the coronavirus situation the same way, causing a major disagreement with regard to parenting their children through this pandemic.
One parent may not take the situation as seriously as the other, and this could result in conflicts over numerous issues that stem from their differences in outlook. For example, one parent may still be taking the children to grandma’s or may not see a problem in continuing to patronize various establishments as they open up per the governor’s orders. The other parent, meanwhile, may find that that behavior takes on unnecessary risks which may pose a threat to their children’s health and safety.
Scheduling issues and disagreements over what is appropriate during a public health emergency like this will need to be addressed and hopefully in a way that both parents are comfortable with. Here are some helpful tips for dealing with parenting plans during the COVID-19 situation:
This is a very difficult time for everyone, and the longer this goes on, the more stressful it becomes. Try to be understanding of this and do everything you can to be flexible with the other parent. For example, you may have the right to visitation with your children every weekend, but this requires you to bring your kids to another state. With social distancing recommended, this might not be the best time for your kids to be traveling a lot. Maybe there is a way for you to spend time with them through a Skype or Zoom teleconference, or maybe the other parent could agree to make up the time you are owed after things return to normal.
Look for Common Ground with the Other Parent
Maybe you do not see things exactly the same way as your co-parent, but that does not necessarily mean there is not a solution that could work for both of you. For example, instead of having the kids stay with grandma, would it be possible to have everyone meet somewhere but stay in separate cars and just visit from a distance for a while? Or perhaps Skype or Zoom conference would work in this situation as well. Grocery, retail, and food delivery could be great alternatives to limiting physical presence in stores and restaurants. Think about what you both could agree to in order to work this situation out.
Look out for Your Children’s Best Interests
What is sometimes lost in all of the talk about parenting plans is how this pandemic is affecting our kids. COVID-19 is unlike anything we have ever experienced, and if parents have difficulty dealing with it, imagine how the children must feel. Your kids may not understand why social distancing is so important, and they may wonder why they are stuck at home all day. Take time out to be there for them either in person or virtually (whatever is appropriate) and let them know that you understand what they are going through and that they are loved.
Consider a Temporary Parenting Plan Revision if Needed
Temporary minor scheduling changes may not require a modification of the parenting plan, especially if both parents agreed to these alterations. But if you are making significant changes that you expect to go on for a while, it may be in your best interest to create a temporary parenting plan to address the current circumstances. By the way, this is true for any temporary disruption in schedule, not just something that is triggered by the coronavirus.
Take Emergency Action Only as a Last Resort
If you are unable to work out a cooperative arrangement with your co-parent, then emergency legal action may be your only option. Petitioning for an emergency order to alter a parenting plan that was already agreed upon is an uphill battle, and COVID-19 is an unprecedented situation. Keep in mind, though, that emergency hearings will only be granted under exceptional circumstances, such as a child’s safety being endangered. Speak with an experienced family law attorney about your specific case and what your best option would be under extremely difficult circumstances.
The Cate Law Firm is Here to Help
If you need help with your parenting plan or other family legal matters in South Carolina, contact the Cate Law Firm. We are still fully operational even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and we are here to assist you with any legal issues that may have come up because of this situation or otherwise.
Call our office today at (864) 585-4226 or message us online to speak with a member of our legal team. We look forward to serving you!