Co-Parenting & Support Challenges In Response To COVID-19
Families face unprecedented challenges in response to COVID-19, and these challenges may impact residential time children spend with a parent and/or the ability of a parent to pay support obligations. The Family Law Group at Beresford Booth is available to assist and provide advice, guidance and representation to parents as to their rights and options during this unprecedented time.
Parenting Plan. While Governor Inslee supplemented his Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order to provide, “Nothing in this order is intended to prevent compliance with a private parenting plan.”, there may be exceptions in which it is necessary to suspend or postpone visitation due to a serious health risk. We can assist in negotiating and obtaining the agreement of the other parent or requesting an emergency court order to protect your child.
Support. If a parent’s employment has been impacted due to Covid-19 and its effect on the economy, we can assist in seeking temporary suspension or reduction of support obligations.
Though every situation and family are different, the following are tips that may help with co-parenting in the current environment:
- Be flexible and work together to problem solve. COVID-19, State, and Federal directives are undoubtedly creating stress and anxiety for co-parents and children. Keep your communications amicable, consider the other party’s perspective, and do your best to address issues in a way that protects the children and other vulnerable individuals in the community and is reasonable. Be open to accepting or giving make-up residential time if there is a serious health risk with the children having contact with one parent or a member of his/her household member; said time to occur after the risk is no longer present. Be open to making agreed temporary changes to the residential schedule due to work schedules and homeschooling. Be open to accommodating transportation requests to comply with social distancing requirements. Being flexible and working together will reduce and may ultimately avoid stress.
- Be open and honest. Answering questions openly and honestly avoids many potential conflicts. For example, if someone in your household is sick, you need to be honest with the other parent even if this means parenting time temporarily takes a different form (such as FaceTime or Skype). If your co-parent or children have valid questions about your exposure to Covid-19, provide honest answers within reason. If you are laid off and cannot afford to pay child support, notify the other parent. Also, with so much access to information with varying degrees of accuracy, it is important that children hear directly from their parents about Covid-19 and any agreed changes to the residential schedule.
- Listen. If your co-parent has concerns, seek to understand those concerns. Parents may have different ideas of what social distancing entails. Listen to the other parent’s reasoning for his/her beliefs and try to reach a happy medium where parents feel their children are being adequately protected from the virus in each household. Each parent should feel heard in making tough decisions about their children
- Cherish the time you have together. Families today face unique circumstances. Use this opportunity to enrich your relationships with your children and your co-parent. Ultimately, all parents want to ensure the safety of their children and households. Be united in that goal. This can turn a difficult situation into a positive experience.
If you and your co-parent decide to make a temporary change to your parenting plan in light of COVID-19, it is best to memorialize your agreement in writing or through use of a temporary order (where applicable). If you cannot come to an agreement on temporary changes, formal dispute resolution may be a productive method to resolve your issues. Many providers can conduct mediations online or telephonically.
Our Family Law Group is available to assist you through these challenging times. Please contact us to schedule a telephone or video conference, via email to JasmineB@beresfordlaw.com or call our office at (425) 776-4100. We continue to serve parents and our community with full remote capabilities for your protection.