PLEASE NOTE: The following information is for general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice in any way. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information.
Co-parenting children after a separation has occurred can be stressful in itself, but things can be exacerbated when adding the stresses associated with the Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The guideline below sets out considerations for navigating through this evolving healthcare crisis:
1. Stay Healthy
Lead your children by example to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19, by adhering to responsible social distancing and good hygiene guidelines, including:
Through observational learning, children can make this part of their routine. Inform the other parent that you (and all others in the household) are adhering to these guidelines, as this will assure them and create good will between you.
2. Be Attentive
The evolving COVID-19 pandemic is a serious healthcare crisis. Children will have heard much through their schools, friends and family, and in media. Since children are not typically able to accurately process information relating to COVID-19, it is important for parents to be attentive of how they communicate with their children in a way that gives them peace of mind.
3. Be Compliant with Your Obligations under Court Orders or Custody Agreements
If your co-parenting of children is mandated by Court Orders, a Parenting Plan, or a Parenting Agreement, you must nevertheless remain compliant, unless there is a reasonable excuse. If care arrangements cannot be complied with – such as because of quarantine, travel restrictions or school closures – common sense solutions will often solve such challenges. If you envisage a change to care arrangements, provide the other parent with as much notice as possible, along with an explanation, so they can adapt to any changes.
4. Be Flexible
If there are school closures and changeover of care normally occur at school or from extra-curricular activities which are no longer continuing, you may need to suggest to the other parent an alternative neutral or public location which will allow social distancing to be maintained.
If you are required to work remotely from home and if it is not practical to have children in your care, or if care arrangements with you or the other parent or important people cannot occur, be creative in thinking of alternative ways in maintaining the connection, such as FaceTime.
5. Be Transparent
Open and honest communication between parents is essential, and this is more so the case with the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. If a child is showing any signs or symptoms of infection, you should immediately share such information with the other parent and try to agree on what steps to take next, such as any self-isolation plan.
6. Be Empathetic
Consider how you would wish the other parent to engage with you about any changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and engage with them in that same way. Reach compromises with the other parent where possible and in the children’s best interests, and this may encourage similar compromises in return. If care arrangements need to be suspended for a particular time, suggest make-up time at some point in the near future.
7. Be Understanding
As the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving, people have responded in different ways, causing varying levels of stress. Being calm and compassionate with the other parent, especially if they are experiencing high stress, will more likely reduce any conflict.
8. Be Compassionate
People may lose their jobs or experience a reduction in their income, which may have an impact on what can be paid as child support or what contributions can be made to other expenses. Being understanding of the other parent’s situation is crucial, as financial worry will likely exist in both households. The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for both parents to work together towards what is best for their children.
For children, it is essential for them to know that their parents worked together in keeping them safe during this COVID-19 crisis, as it is likely to be an enduring memory for them.
For further information, please refer to the following resources: