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Parenting During a Pandemic

Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Divorced/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the coronoavirus /COVID19 Pandemic

| March 19, 2020 | Kimberley Ketsa

Every day there are news updates regarding coronavirus / COVID-19. Everyone is feeling uncertain and anxious. So what about parenting in the world of coronavirus? If there's a dispute between separated parties, they cannot run to court due to the closure of public facilities.

Experts around the world have come together to provide some useful guidelines to parents during this time.

The 7 Guidelines are:

1. BE HEALTHY
Comply with all Alberta Health and local and government guidelines and model good behaviour for your children with intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. This also means BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumor mill on social media.

2. BE MINDFUL
Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal in time. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on 24/7, for instance. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.

3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and custody agreements
As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The custody agreement or court order exists to prevent endless haggling over the details of time sharing. The existing order or agreement remains in full force and effect regardless of the court being closed. In some jurisdictions there are even standing orders mandating that, if schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as though school were still in session.

4. BE CREATIVE
At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to fly, vacation or visit attractions such as museums and entertainment venues. In addition, some parents will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games and FaceTime or Skype.

5. BE TRANSPARENT
Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the coronavirus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Certainly both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the coronavirus.

6. BE GENEROUS
Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in unusual circumstances.

7. BE UNDERSTANDING
There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something, even if it can’t be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.

When it comes to parenting and the law, the priority is always the best interests of the child. If you end up in court once everything is back to normal, the judges will take cooperation vs obstruction into account. The court rewards the "friendly parent" who acts in the best interests of the child.

Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It’s important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to work together, explain what was happening and to keep their child safe.

If you would like a copy of a great outline to plan ahead for the challenges COVID-19 might bring, contact us at info@kineticlaw.ca and we will e-mail it to you. We recommend parents work together to make a plan.

If you need assistance or legal advice with parenting during this confusing time, our lawyers at Kinetic Law are available to help. Our office remains open and we continue to provide a variety of services, including mediation, collaborative law and representation at arbitrations. If you are self-isolation or practicing social distancing, we offer help and advice through telephone and skype and e-mail consultations.

For more information on family law, visit our Family Law page here.

For more information on out-of-court options, visit our Alternative Dispute Resolution page here

For more information about court closures, see our Blawg article here.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the Government of Alberta website here.

Any questions? Contact us today. 

coronavirus parenting

This blog entry was adapted from Guidelines provided by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and leaders of groups that deal with families in crisis. Thanks to:

Susan Myres, President of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML)
Dr. Matt Sullivan, President of Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
Annette Burns, AAML and Former President of AFCC
Yasmine Mehmet, AAML
Kim Bonuomo, AAML
Nancy Kellman, AAML
Dr. Leslie Drozd, AFCC
Dr. Robin Deutsch, AFCC
Jill Peña, Executive Director of AAML
Peter Salem, Executive Director of AFCC

DISCLAIMER: This web site is for convenience and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a comprehensive or detailed statement concerning the matters addressed, legal or otherwise. The information provided is not legal advice or any other kind of advice. You should seek appropriate, qualified professional advice before acting or omitting to act in your personal or legal matter. To get legal advice, you can contact us directly and make an appointment to meet with a lawyer in person. We cannot and do not provide advice on our website or otherwise online.

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