The Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), whilst creating special challenges for all, may particularly affect separated or divorced parents with young children. With the situation rapidly evolving, the long-term outcomes remain to be seen. In light of such uncertainty and the extra stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be hard to manage stress for both parents and children alike. However, the following suggestions below may assist separated parents in working through this difficult time:
- Adapt and Communicate
In light of COVID-19 and the surrounding anxiety, parents may become angry with the decisions of their ex-partners regarding the children. However, during this time it is important to ensure that parents stay focused on the best interests of their children. Whilst difficult, this will require compromise and polite communication between parents to ensure that needless conflict is avoided. This is a time when the last thing children need to see is their parents fighting about them.
As the impact of COVID-19 on Courts remains unknown, it is uncertain if the Courts will suffer delays. It may be the case that the Courts will have limited availability, with dispute resolution services becoming scarce. As such, separated parents must attempt to resolve issues and manage matters between themselves to avoid long delays. If you have not already done so, it may be useful to consider discussing personal policies regarding the children’s care with your ex-partner. This may include discussing:
- How time with the children will be divided should school closures occur?
- Where will changeover occur? Do you have a plan for another location should your current venue become inaccessible?
- How will the children’s safety and health be maintained?
- How will you follow government advice about large gatherings such as weekend sporting events?
- What activities are you both happy for the children to engage in during holidays or otherwise?
- How you will discuss this scary matter with the children so that they are informed but not panicked?
In certain situations, it may also be worthwhile implementing a parenting plan between yourself and the other parent to address the above concerns, and more, quickly without the need to go to Court. Parenting Plans provide flexibility and can allow for arrangements between parents to be changed as the circumstances require. However, having a Parenting Plan in place does not mean you can neglect any obligations under existing Court orders or agreements.
If you are unsure about how to create a Parenting Plan or are having trouble communicating with your ex-partner, CD Lawyers may be able to assist you. For more information please contact our office.
- Continue to meet your obligations
Whilst we are currently living in unpredictable times, that is no excuse to neglect your obligations under a court order or agreement regarding your parenting matter. If for some reason you are unable to meet your obligations, say because arrangements are unclear or because of extenuating circumstances (e.g. school closures or quarantine), you must attempt to find a solution. At the very least, it is essential that where a change is anticipated, you communicate with the other parent providing them with ample notice and information.
If you are having difficulty meeting your obligations CD Lawyers can assist you.
- Stay healthy and follow government guidelines
Ensure that you and your children practice healthy hygiene habits to minimise the risk of spreading germs and viruses. Frequently and thoroughly washing your hands, as well as practicing responsible social distancing will reduce the risk of illness both to your family, friends, and others.
Setting an example for children is the best method of ensuring they learn these practices. As such you should let the other parent know you are following these healthy practices to ensure consistency across households.
For more information and access to the Government guidelines please visit:
- Be Patient, Positive and Compassionate.
It is important to understand that in these coming months COVID-19 will bring special challenges. This situation will not be resolved overnight, but will require long term changes to the way we work, socialise, communicate and parent. Despite the stress and anxiety, it is important to think about how you would like the other parent to engage with you about parenting issues and to reciprocate that engagement.
Understand that a certain degree of flexibility will need to be maintained with the other parent to ensure the children are taken care of. The current events are unprecedented and unplanned for. However, maintaining open and positive communication with the best interests of the children in mind will likely reduce conflict and ensure you can focus on your family and not on costly litigation. However, if the other parent is being unreasonable, and you have followed the required pre-action procedures, it may be necessary to issue court proceedings, and we can advise you on this.
Please note that the above is general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. All situations are different and legal advice must always be tailored to the specific situation.