The coronavirus pandemic is unlike any prior state of emergency the United States has ever faced. With children schooling from home, businesses closing, and employers laying off workers in droves, this crisis is impacting more than just the public’s health – it’s impacting the very way we live our lives.
The reason for this is social distancing, a practice that is meant to help slow the spread of coronavirus throughout communities. But as all Americans struggle to master social distancing, many parents are trying to figure out how to effectively and safely co-parent in a pandemic.
Social distancing and co-parenting
Social distancing is a new concept for all of us, so it’s not surprising that it’s been a challenge to implement. According to the Red Cross, social distancing requires people to intentionally increase the physical space between people to reduce the possibility of disease transmission.
Social distancing offers additional complications when you share custody. It’s completely natural to want to keep your children at home during this time – anxieties and worries are running high across the nation. Balancing co-parenting while social distancing has stirred up questions like:
- Should my children stay with one of us until the pandemic passes?
- Am I putting my children at risk by transferring them between households?
- Are there legal consequences if I don’t abide by the schedule?
- Do I still have remedy through the Courts?
The truth is, answers will vary for each family because no two families are the same. That means that families will have to work together to come up with solutions that are best for them.
The experts weigh in
The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) recently released a joint statement on sharing custody during a pandemic. The statement outlines guidelines for parents to follow during this pandemic, which focus on following CDC guidelines, honesty with children about the pandemic, and following your custody orders while still allowing for finding ways to ensure that everyone stays healthy.
Guidance from the state of New Jersey is a little more specific. The current stay-at-home orders don’t invalidate custody arrangements. However, it may be possible to create a temporary parenting schedule to ensure that everyone is safe and cared for.
It’s also a good idea to discuss shared expectations regarding travel, activities, and hygiene during this time. While each household will have its own routines, talking about what concerns you can help you and your co-parent stay on the same page. If you feel like these conversations will be difficult, consult with an attorney or work with a mediator.
Moreover, although the pandemic has had a huge impact on the economy, New Jersey law states that child support arrangements aren’t adjusted in cases of temporary economic hardship. That being said, because the pandemic’s effects have been so widespread, it may not be so cut-and-dried. It’s advisable to talk to your attorney before making any requests to change child support amounts.
Show your children a united front. This is a life event that none of us have experienced before. The way we model to them how their parents worked together during a difficult time can leave a bigger mark on them than the memories of the pandemic itself.
Parenting is hard enough when we aren’t in the middle of a global pandemic. The key is to remember that you are not alone. If we follow the guidelines and continue to do our part, we will all get through this together.
If these uncertain times are leaving you feeling uneasy, we welcome you to talk to one of our experienced attorneys. Even if you are just looking for a brief 10 minute conversation.
Our offices may be temporarily closed, but our doors are always wide open.