Corona And Custody For Divorced Parents During Crisis

Editor’s Note: Haute Lawyer partner attorney Sandy B. Becher talks about custody agreements and how they are affected by the current pandemic.

custody - Sandy Becher - April 2020 - shutterstock_579737923Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Some divorced parents are having a very difficult time balancing their parental instincts and judgment to protect their children by keeping them at home, against the proven healthy need for children to maintain ongoing bonding and relationship building time with both parents. Timesharing with both parents requires potential exposure to the child when leaving the home and possibly to another parent that is seemingly not as concerned and taking as many precautions as necessary. If the custody agreement parents have under the circumstances works and is in the best interests of the child, it should remain in effect. In fact, Miami-Dade Courts are expecting that parents honor current timesharing agreements and are strongly warning parents not to be hurtful to each other by unreasonably withholding timesharing under the guise of protecting the child from a pandemic.

However, problems arise when there either are no agreements or court orders in place yet, or if one parent does not think the agreement is in the best interests of the child under these extreme circumstances. Often, under normal circumstances, parents have very differing views of how to handle medical and general safety issues and may see the risk and potential harm to the child differently. In the event an agreement is in place, one parent may believe the other parent will not act in the best interests of the child by taking every precaution possible during a global health crisis evidenced by unprecedented governmental shut down orders locally, let alone the world over. Parents are seeing daily press briefings from local, state and federal officials overwhelmingly talking about the risk of death and demanding that people not leave their homes in a manner unlike anyone has ever experienced before. It is a particularly troublesome and complex situation if a child already has a medical condition or illness and one parent has a history of being the primary caretaker while the other parent wishes to be equally involved when they are now living apart. Now we have one parent that believes they are more equipped and inclined to look out for and guarantee the best interests of the child during a pandemic and another who completely disagrees and wants to be equally involved in caring for and protecting the child during the local spread of an infectious illness and death the likes of which neither parent could have ever possibly anticipated.

As everything around us is shut down and the community at large is stricken with fear of illness and death, separated and divorced parents with children must consider the appropriate conditions for the child’s well-being and determine what level of care and safeguards to implement with their children. Parents need to understand they are both on the same team as it relates to the protection of their child and listen to each other’s views and concerns and come up with an arrangement that works under the circumstances. There needs to be adequate and meaningful conversation about taking the appropriate precautions. Sometimes it is clear to both parents that one is more obsessive about hygiene or medical issues and the other more laid back. Parents need to do whatever it takes to provide each other the comfort and security to know things will get handled appropriately under the other parent’s care. They both need to start the conversation at an understanding and agreement to do what it takes to keep the child safe.

If this is your case, you are not alone. Many separated and divorced parents are trying the best they know how to figure out how to co-parent with schools and many places of employment closed for the foreseeable future, while governments around the world, this country, state and city suggest people not leave their homes. Many timesharing (custody) arrangements or discussions of timesharing arrangements are now in question due to differing views on how to keep the child out of danger. Lawyers are also finding themselves in the unusual and difficult position of discussing hygiene, hand washing, and social distancing while Courts are closed to address these timesharing matters with Judges. Marriage counselors are suggesting a friendly, cautious and collaborative approach and to handle things temporarily on a month to month basis utilizing all the technology available for the child to maintain visual contact and involvement with both parents.

For couples who went through tense separations and divorces and generally do not agree on much, this is a horrible predicament, especially with differing views and parenting styles related to medical issues. Some parents are coming up with creative solutions and the starting point is at least an agreement that they both want the best protection for the child. Some people are winging it day by day while others have a weekly or monthly plan. In any case, you both love your kids so talk to each other and understand this is temporary and your child doesn’t need any more stress related to custody than what they and you are already experiencing. If the world can come together in its global efforts to stop this pandemic, then you two can come together to protect your child. You may not be together any longer, but you’re still family and acting in furtherance of the greatest thing each of you has given each other in your lives….


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