How COVID-19 May Impact Your Parenting Time Agreement
During the COVID-19 pandemic, parenting time for divorced parents may be impacted if one or both parents have been exposed to the virus. Otherwise, parents are expected to follow parenting time agreements issued by Indiana courts.
Co-Parenting During the Coronavirus Crisis
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of daily life. With stay at home and quarantine orders now in place, many divorced parents are wondering how to handle their co-parenting and child custody agreements established by the court. Since most parents are working from home and children are no longer in school, parents are not clear on guidelines involving parenting time during the coronavirus pandemic when custody is shared by parents who live in separate homes.
According to Indiana courts, parents must follow court orders regarding parenting time and child custody. On March 31, 2020, the Indiana Supreme Court issued Order number 20S-MS-238 which addresses co-parenting during the coronavirus crisis. The order states that existing court orders regarding parenting time and child custody shall remain in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, and parents are expected to follow them.
If one or both parents believe there is reason to modify an existing court order during the COVID-19 pandemic, they must follow court guidelines. The Supreme Court Order number 20S-MS-238 states that parents may file a written agreement with the court or a family law attorney to temporarily modify court orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, as long as the modification is not prohibited by the existing court order.
Co-Parenting Safety Guidelines
Recently, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts released simple guidelines for co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidelines address social distancing and quarantine situations and provide helpful information on co-parenting.
Follow CDC Safety Guidelines
Parents must stay informed on COVID-19 safety issues through federal and state officials and reliable media sources. To ensure safety for children and family members, parents must follow CDC guidelines, as well as state guidelines for social distancing and recommended sanitary procedures.
Take Coronavirus Seriously
Although children may not understand coronavirus, parents are urged to talk to their children about the seriousness of the pandemic, but while maintaining a calm attitude. Children should be told that things will return to normal in time. If they ask questions, answers should be truthful, but always age-appropriate.
Discuss Quarantine and Social Distancing
Children must understand that quarantine orders and social distancing practices may impact time spent with other family members and other children. It is important for children to realize that their safety is the main reason for changes in normal routines and socialization.
Address Safety Concerns
If co-parenting or sharing custody, both parents must provide truthful information to each other. If one parent has been exposed or test positive for COVID-19, he/she should postpone personal contact with the child. However, during isolation, parenting time can still be arranged through phone calls, emails, and video chats.
Maintain Open Communication
During the coronavirus pandemic, divorced parents must keep communication open. It is important to talk about visitation schedules, hygiene protocols within the home, social distancing rules, school work, and social activities. Open communication can eliminate unreasonable fears for children.
Be Flexible with Schedules
Due to changes in work hours, school schedules, and quarantine orders, co-parenting schedules should be flexible within reason. Parents must work together to accommodate a schedule that fits family needs while following safety guidelines. If one parent refuses to comply based on unfounded concerns or as a way to purposely interfere with the other parent’s ability to see the child, legal issues should be discussed with an Indianapolis family law attorney.
No two co-parenting agreements are ever the same. They are drafted by family law attorneys based on the best interest of the children and an arrangement that works for both parents. A co-parenting agreement should contain important information for both parents related to raising a child after a divorce. Legal agreements for parenting time and child custody usually address the following:
- Parenting time schedules showing when the child spends time with each parent
- Parenting rules and provisions about raising the child
- Parent decision making
- Living arrangements
- School activities and social events
- Child support, family finances, and expenses
When parents divorce, children usually share their time between both parents who are living in separate homes. Coordinating visitation schedules, driving children to school and social events, and splitting time on holidays can be stressful for families. Studies show that co-parenting works best when both parents are cooperative and respectful of legal agreements.
Co-parenting and child custody agreements are legal documents issued by the court. If changes need to be made due to changes in family dynamics or unusual circumstances like COVID-19, parents should consult a family law attorney who can address legal issues and family concerns. Parents who do not comply with court-ordered agreements can face serious consequences including loss of parental rights.