As you try to manage your visitation schedule during the havoc caused by COVID-19, it’s important to put the needs of your children first. If it has been hard to co-parent with your ex before the pandemic, it’s going to be even harder when you are stressed and uncertain about the future. Take the time to look at the changing needs of both of you as parents, and realize that you might need to negotiate a bit when it comes to a visitation schedule that makes sense.
A set visitation schedule allows your children to know what to expect every week. If your children are suddenly out of school, this may require some compromise when it comes to visitation and childcare. If one parent is an essential worker, this person may be more exposed to the coronavirus or be unable to meet the needs of the children because they are home more often. Talk with your ex about a reasonable schedule that allows you both flexibility and continued contact with your children as you navigate during this difficult time.
Remember that if you don’t follow social distancing guidelines, you are doing more than putting yourself at risk. If your children are going back and forth, you are also putting your ex at risk when you don’t follow social distancing guidelines. If you have been exposed to COVID-19, or you have tested positive, you will need to let your ex know so that a plan can be made to take care of the children.
The court system is open for emergencies only. Work out a visitation schedule that makes sense with the other parent of your children. If you threaten court action because you don’t get what you want, this only makes you appear as a bully. While you may be frightened about your future, it is not the time to get into fights with your ex. Court action is a last resort, and you don’t want to be the person who threatens something that can’t be followed through with.
If you find out your ex is having play dates, it is not up to you to change this. While contact with additional people is recommended against, it is not prohibited. Do not threaten to withhold the children from your ex because of the playdates or because you feel they are being put at risk. You do not control what happens in your ex’s home and it is best to follow your visitation agreement.
You might discover that your ex has placed your children’s health and welfare in danger. This can occur whether there is a pandemic going on or not. Consider what serious risks are present. If there is domestic violence in your ex’s home, drug abuse, or your children express fear about being with your ex, you have the right to contact not only the Court, but the Department of Children and Families, and if serious enough the police to state your concerns.
Before you make threats to stop visitation, take a deep breath. It is difficult to manage life when everything is uncertain. It can be tempting to take out your frustration on your ex, but it will not make anything easier. If you are arguing over text messaging, stop answering texts when you find yourself getting upset. Give yourself time to think about what you want to say before you respond.
The court system will not look favorably upon a person who uses threats or withholds visitation from an ex during a pandemic. Unless there is a serious threat to the children, there’s no reason to go to court and waste the court’s time. Things are going to continue to change. There’s no timeline for when children are going to return to school, and there are many unknowns regarding the coronavirus. The more you can roll with the changes when it comes to visitation and your children, the easier co-parenting will be for you, and the more the children will benefit.
Co-parenting during a pandemic is tough. Children need to be with both parents as much as possible, and a routine schedule will help your children feel more safe and secure. As you navigate the complexities of new schedules and childcare demands, try to have empathy for your ex. When the two of you can work together for the sake of your shared children, you will all come out stronger for it.