The ongoing health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has sent many aspects of American life spiraling into uncertainty. Many families are still adjusting to working from home, limiting social interaction, and relying on digital communication to stay in touch with the people in their lives. Industries have evolved seemingly overnight and public entities like courthouses have closed to the public to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.
One of the biggest areas of concern for divorced parents across the nation has been how the COVID-19 pandemic could negatively impact their existing custody agreements. While some parents have encountered significant issues due to courthouse closings and difficulty enforcing custody agreements, the effects of the Coronavirus on co-parenting have been surprisingly very positive.
While a number of child custody cases have made headlines over the last several months due to ex-spouses attempting to leverage the current health crisis against their custody agreements, many more divorced parents are realizing that maintaining their current custody agreements offers significant benefits to their children that far outweigh the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Some divorced parents have tried to argue that their exes working in high-risk environments like hospitals and nursing homes is enough justification to warrant full custody, the reality is that sticking to existing child custody arrangements has better outcomes for children and with minimal health risk.
One of the biggest difficulties facing parents in the US right now is the ability to balance working from home and supervising and entertaining children home from school. Daycare and summer activity programs across the nation have closed down to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many children are restless at home with their parents too busy to provide the entertainment and engagement they need day to day. Many divorced parents are starting to see the real value their exes provide to their children, and many co-parents are working more collaboratively than ever before in light of current events.
Visiting two households during the COVID-19 pandemic may also have an enriching effect on kids who would otherwise be stuck in one house the entire time. By visiting each parent and maintaining a usual custody arrangement, a child with co-parents has equal access to two different yet equally supportive home environments. This could help children of co-parents cope with the ongoing lockdown more easily.
Many school systems across the country adopted virtual learning for children at all levels of education, but once the school year ended these children had no access to their usual variety of summer activities, extracurricular sports and clubs, or the ability to spend time with friends and extended family. While the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown have been incredibly isolating for many people across the nation, they have also brought some parents and their children closer together.
Maintaining existing custody agreements increases the likelihood of co-parents turning over new leaves in both their relationships with each other and with their kids. Parents are more flexible than ever, and generally able to provide their children with more one-on-one attention despite the lockdown. When it comes to co-parents, the flexibility they offer one another by taking childcare and supervision off each other’s plates on a set schedule can be invaluable for everyone involved.
Changes to work in the United States have also provided many co-parents with greater flexibility. For example, parents who typically commuted to offices or traveled for business regularly are now working remotely from home. This has not only allowed many Americans to get their work done comfortably and efficiently, but also provided their children with easier access to their parents any day of the week.
Parents have had to make many adjustments, concessions, and alterations to their child custody arrangements in light of COVID-19, but it’s vital to remember that most states have upheld that all current custody arrangements should be maintained as-is whenever and wherever possible. Co-parents should make every effort to follow their existing custody agreements to the letter to provide consistency and stability to their children during this difficult time.
Some co-parents may need to adjust their custody agreements, and open and honest communication is paramount in these situations. If you are unsure about a proposed change to your child custody agreement, you may want to reach out to an experienced family law attorney for advice. Ultimately, you should take the opportunity that COVID-19 has provided to foster more amicable relations with your co-parent and to grow closer with your children during the time you have them.
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