Co-parenting with your former partner or spouse can be challenging in the best of times. The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has certainly made co-parenting more challenging than usual, even for parents who deal with one another well–and new questions are arising every day. All Ohio school children are home for at least three weeks, and potentially longer. Preschools and daycare centers may be also be ordered to close in the next few days. Many parents have been directed to work from home, and others may be furloughed as workloads are reduced and many public places are shutting their doors, at least temporarily.
Co-parents should remember that they should be guided by Ohio’s most basic legal principle to act in their children’s best interest. From a practical perspective, what does that mean? The need for “social distancing” by adults should include their children as a matter of common sense. Here are three recommendations for co-parents:
1. Don’t Fly. Air travel is being discouraged for adults, so children should not be flying out of town for spring vacation or otherwise.
2. Align Work From Home Requirements With Caretaking. Many parents are being told to work remotely, so if one parent must still go in to work while the other can be at home with the children, it is likely best that the children stay with the at-home parent, even if it is not according to the regular parenting schedule. If the working parent feels he or she is missing time with the children, the at-home parent should consider making some accommodation so that both parents can optimize time with the children. Some parents have a “right of first refusal” in their parenting plans, whereby they are required to offer the other parent time with the children if they themselves cannot exercise their parenting time and care for the children themselves. Even without such a provision, it might be most sensible to ask the other parent to care for the children before asking a third party to care for them.
3. Play Safe and Use Video Chat. There may be other issues that arise such as what are appropriate activities for and places to go with children. Play dates are being discouraged, as is involvement in other public activities. But now may be the best time to utilize the technology that’s readily available on your smart phone and computers. Have your children Skype or FaceTime their other parent, family members and friends to stay engaged, connected and safe during this difficult time.
Perhaps the biggest question for co-parents is what to do if the other parent is not on the same wavelength as far as how restrictive or flexible to be about your children’s activities as we move forward with the progression of this outbreak. As we will discuss later this week, many of the courts and court services are closed or are very lightly staffed. Accordingly, seeking court intervention, except in extreme emergency or cases of domestic violence, may likely be unproductive.
However, if you or a loved one experience difficulties with parenting issues, please contact our Family Law team. We are here to help you navigate these difficult times if common sense, the best interest of the child and a spirit of cooperation don’t get you and your co-parent to a satisfactory resolution.
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