Parenting is difficult. It is more difficult after separation. Now the Covid-19 pandemic is making it even more difficult.
How do you respect the need for physical distancing and still co-parent?
What should you do? Here are principles that I hope will help you navigate these challenges:
Principles To Guide Co-Parenting During COVID-19
- If there is an agreement or court order for children to spend time with each parent, this arrangement should continue with modifications to protect the children from Covid-19 infection.
- The health, safety and best interests of the children remains the priority.
- If you have been exposed to the virus, travelled abroad within the last 14 days or have symptoms of the virus, forego your time with your children. This is to protect your children. You may discuss how to make up this lost time when the pandemic passes.
- If the children are already in a household where someone has been exposed to the virus, travelled abroad within 14 days or shows symptoms, the children should not go to the other parent’s home. They should stay in self-isolation.
- Discuss modifications needed to facilitate the exchange of your children. For example, if you were meeting at a public place, you need to change the location of the exchange. There must be hand-washing and sanitizing done by the children immediately before and after an exchange. If you have been using public transportation, you will need to find a new way to transport the children.
- You need to discuss and assure each other that you and everyone in your home has not been travelling abroad within the last 14 days, has no symptoms and has not been exposed to the virus. You need to also assure each other that if these circumstances change, you will alert the other parent immediately.
- Everyone must be committed to the children’s best interests. You need to put behind you any past grievances and work cooperatively to ensure that your children have the benefit of maintaining a relationship with both parents and that your children are always safe.
- If the children cannot move from one home to another, then make alternate arrangement such as video conferencing using Zoom, FaceTime or Skype. At the very least, the telephone can be used by children to stay connected with the other parent.
- If a parent has specific and compelling evidence that the other parent is not respecting appropriate protocols necessary to keep your children safe, or has travelled abroad within 14 days, been exposed to the virus or has symptoms, it is reasonable and appropriate to suspend the parenting arrangements. We can help you negotiate an agreement. If necessary, we can seek an urgent court order.
- The mere fact of the pandemic is not sufficient reason to terminate or suspend the exchange of children.
- Practice physical distancing at all times especially when you have care of your children and insist the children do too. This means making changes in your everyday routines in order to minimize close contact with others, including:
- avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings
- avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes
- limiting contact with people at higher risk (e.g. older adults and those in poor health)
- keeping a distance of at least 2 arms lengths (approximately 2 meters) from others, as much as possible.
- Practicing physical distancing means doing the following:
- greet with a wave instead of a handshake, a kiss or a hug
- stay home as much as possible, including for meals and entertainment
- shop or take public transportation during off-peak hours
- conduct virtual meetings
- host virtual playdates for your kids
- use technology to keep in touch with friends and family if possible,
- use food delivery services or online shopping
- exercise at home or outside
- work from home
- stay home
- wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your face
- cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm
- avoid touching surfaces people touch often
- Parents need to be flexible, cooperative, creative and focused on the best interests of the children always. Be patient with each other.
- These principles apply to everyone who has time with the children including parents, grand-parents, step-families and extended families. We are all in this together.
Our Newmarket & Barrie Family Lawyers Can Help
These principles may not always resolve disputes between you and the other persons who normally have time with your children.
We are here to help.
The majority of our cases do not involve the court system.
We are settlement experts and can help you negotiate a resolution in the best interests of your children.
We do this every day. We have been working remotely for years.
This is not new for us.
We can help you resolve your challenging parenting issues using a variety of settlement processes.
We are here to help.