March 28, 2020
GUIDELINES FOR DIVORCE OR SEPARATED PARENTS WITH CHILDREN DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
This is general advice only and depends on the circumstances of your situation and updates from health authorities on COVID-19. Consult a lawyer for legal advice as it relates to your situation.
WORK TOGETHER IN GOOD FAITH
Now more than ever, separated / divorced parents must “co-parent” during this difficult time. That means putting aside emotions and differences and putting children’s best interests first. This will also reduce anxiety for the child in an already stressful climate.
KEEP SAFE, BE MINDFUL & COMMUNICATE
It is important for everyone’s sake, including parents and children, to implement safety plans as recommended by reputable sources like:
- BC CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19?fbclid=IwAR0A090qwn6ZGcu4exjQeCe7-mkfq1ytE2_TRW5tAlfxFKqt2WUFKB5mgHo
- Canada Public Health: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html?fbclid=IwAR1yqhm0o27mVAPxp93Y5r8m4DL0gZuNm0mvU60-TcfK1MCjoUloasdKNQ4
There are many other reliable sources on the internet. Most of all, listen to the children’s doctor for their specific needs and medical condition, if any, such as immune deficiency issues.
DO NOT expose your children to unreliable sources or social media. This will increase anxiety, fear and irrational decisions.
Parents should be transparent. If each of you (and the children) have taken precautions as recommended by provincial or federal government agencies say so.
Since the child will be in two households, communication and management of precautionary measures are vital during this time. If you are in a blended family trust, communication and coordinating are key.
THINK OUTSIDE THE REGULAR PARENTING SCHEDULE, AGREEMENT OR ORDER
If all precautions have been taken and maintained, then parents should come to an agreement on parenting time while school is out of session. It may be the regular parenting schedule is maintained, or a change in the schedule to allow for increases in time with the other parent. Whether it stays the same or is changed really depends on the circumstances in each family.
If you have a court order or separation agreement detailing the schedule, at a minimum abide by it. Most orders or agreements will not dictate what happens in these CV-19 circumstances. But just because there is an order or agreement, doesn’t mean that the parents cannot agree to change things up.
I also recommend both parents coming up with a daily schedule while the children are out of school which could include school curriculum, projects as well as safe activities.
WORST CASE SCENARIOS
If a restriction on movement is imposed by the government to only essential travel, transporting a child to and from another parent, in my view, is essential travel. However, this may depend on the severity of the CV-19 situation and government imposed restrictions.
If a parent or child is compromised by the virus or, based on government guidelines, should quarantine or self-isolate, the other parent should not object to the incubation period and should forego parenting time for the recommended period. That being said, parents should be transparent and should not fear disclosing that they have been compromised or at risk.
In the event of self-isolation or quarantine, be sure to increase face time or video conferencing as this will ensure communication between parent and child, but hopefully distract the child from the stressful climate around them.
However, parents should not unreasonably withhold the child on basis of fear or ignorance.
THE CHILD’S BEST INTERESTS
Ultimately, parents must do all that is reasonably possible to make good decisions for their children that is in the children’s best interests. It is important to ensure the health and safety of everyone, including children, but it is also important to try and maintain meaningful relationships with both parents. I repeat, this depends on the circumstances of your particular situation. Do what is best for your child.