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Custody in a Time of Crisis: Custody and COVID-19

As a result of the coronavirus pangamic, many parents have been left questioning what impact will the virus and our response to it will have on custody related matters during and after a family law case. The ability for parents to be able to spend time with their children in spite of living in different households is of the utmost concern for parents in these type of positions. More than anything else, time is a commodity that is finite, and you cannot get back opportunities you have lost to spend time with your children. As a result, if you are going through a family law case or are dealing with custody issues on the backside of a family law case then today's blog post is for you. 

The trouble with a family law case is that it has a tendency to not end the second a judge signs a final order. On the contrary, the issues inherent in your child custody or divorce case may be prolonged for any number of reasons. One of those reasons could be in relation to the ongoing pandemic. Families around the country and the world are trying to figure out how to raise children in spite of the challenges presented by the pandemic. Living in a separate household from your child's other parent only adds to those challenges. Without a doubt, you and your child's other parent need to be on the same page in terms of how to best raise your child to limit the negatives of this pandemic from impacting your child's life. 

What is Co-parenting? 

When it comes to coordinating efforts regarding parenting with your child other parent, I am describing a concept known as Co-parenting. If you have gone through a child custody or divorce case in Texas then you are likely familiar with this term and may have even attended in person classes or an online class that talks to you about how to work together with your child other parent after a family law case has come to an end. There are many ways to coparent effectively in the manner in which you engage in Co-parenting will likely depend on the specific circumstances of your case and of your family. 

The most effective way to Co parent is to communicate well with him or her. This means that you may have to look past a history between you and your Co parent where both of you may not have treated the other very well. I am not trying to argue that you should look past abuse or violence or anything that puts you in a position where you are vulnerable to physical harm.  Fortunately, most Co-parenting scenarios do not have this as a factor. Most of the time we're talking about hurt feelings in a general sense of fatigue at having to deal with this person after going through a long child custody or divorce case. 

In a way, the fatigue that people feel in regard to one another after a child custody or divorce case is similar to the way many of us feel in relation to this pandemic. The more an unpleasant experience is dragged on the less likely we are to maintain a good attitude and follow the rules that are set up to help keep us safe and protect our children. We see this all the time in news articles warning us about being lethargic on the essentials of social distancing and hand washing as far as limiting the spread of the virus. After having followed these rules for so long it is possible that many of us will become lackadaisical at times. 

I think there is a direct relationship with this phenomenon and your willingness and ability to Co parent affectively. After dealing with a divorce or child custody case for months at a time it would be natural to not want to have to speak with or communicate with you are Co parent. Taking a few months off of the case where both of you do not have to deal with one another is a human emotion that I think many of us can relate to. However, as good as this may make you feel in your mind, it is not what is best for your child. Your child needs two parents to be able to reach their potential and this means that you must coparent through those times where Co-parenting fatigue has set in. 

In addition, coparenting means that you need to be not only willing to communicate with your coparent but capable of approaching issues with a united front. Sometimes doing so takes you're putting your ego aside an understanding that the other person's position has merit. For example, it would be easy for you to not take seriously the position of your child other parent simply because you all have a history of disagreeing. However, I have found that in many circumstances when parents stop to consider what is actually in the best interest of their child instead of what feels good to them at the moment, parents are better able to coordinate their efforts and work together to parent their children as a team. 

Co-parenting during a pandemic also means that you all will have the ability to utilize technology anywhere to help do so. Gone are the days where parents need to be able to speak to one another face to face in order to communicate. Parents in our generation have the advantage of being able to use cell phones, computers and a host of other electronic and digital methods to communicate with each other. This not only improves the efficiency of communication but can also go a long way towards helping parents work together when communicating face to face does not suit them well. This is true during a pandemic but has also been true prior to the pandemic due to issues that some parents have with interpersonal communication out of face to face basis. 

Essentially, parents have no excuse when it comes to the failure to communicate well with one another. Alternative means of communication make Co-parenting even simpler because it allows us to share ideas, concerns and thoughts on particular issues that may be important to your family. Going back and forth via email on rescheduling Visitation or handling of any other matter related to your family can be very productive rather than having to carve out time specifically to discuss a particular issue. 

What Co-parenting can also do for you and your child other parent is to teach you how to negotiate your way through issues that may be troublesome. The reality of your situation is that much of the time your family court order will not suit the needs of your family 100% of the time. The fact of the matter is that your circumstances will likely change, and in some cases will change significantly, after the rendition of an order by a family court judge. Rather than having to constantly go back to the order that doesn't suit you well it would be who've you in your child of their parent to learn how to work through issues and negotiate temporary modifications. 

For example, in this coronavirus pandemic your work schedule may have changed such that a Visitation schedule included in the order may not work for you. This may be the case for a few weeks or even for the foreseeable future. Rather than forcing one another to stick by visitation orders that do not work, you and your child other parent may be able to coparent and negotiate your way through the problem rather than having to resort to are there methods. While there is nothing wrong with going back to court and having an order modified it may work just as well for you all too negotiate an informal modification especially if the necessary change is only going to be temporary in nature. Unless you in your child other parent have shown the ability to Co parent affectively these sort of on the fly changes and settlements will not be possible. 

How to handle exposure to the virus and your children 

Probably the simplest concern that you can have regarding your children right now is keeping them healthy. To be fair, this is a concern that parents have in anytime. Not only during the coronavirus pandemic. Wanting to keep your child safe right now starts with keeping him or her healthy. Since we have no real way to know if anyone around us is carrying the virus then we will have to take a commonsense approach to keeping your child safe and healthy. Here are some ways that I think you can coparent your way through this pandemic. 

For starters, you can place more of an emphasis on the basic methods to keep your children healthy. Namely, I am thinking about eating well, getting enough sleep and getting enough exercise. As with anything else in the world of Co-parenting it will take you and your Co-parent to present a united front to your children on all of these subjects. That means that if one parent is not supporting the other it is encouraging these activities then the overall effort will not be a strong. Talk with your Co-parent about how you will encourage these positive behaviors. 

Especially with younger children, it can be very difficult to get them to eat healthy. I know from personal experience with my own children that some days kids seemed to eat well in other days kids do not seem to eat as well. The difference between one day and the other can be minimal and can depend on any number of reasons. Do you know your children much better than I do obviously so you will need to work with your Co-parent on how to encourage your children to eat well? This may mean figuring out sneaky ways to get your kids eat vegetables, ensuring they always have water close by to drink and limiting sugar consumption. 

I am not a doctor so you should obviously speak to your children's pediatrician prior to making big changes in their diets. However, the diet that will help your children stay healthy and avoid the coronavirus is virtually the same as the diet they should have been taking part in prior to the pandemic. However, this plan will not work well if you are serving your children of balanced diet at your house while your Co-parent is not doing the same at their own. Talk with your Co-parent so you all are on the same page when it comes to encouraging healthy eating. 

Another subject that I think does not get discussed enough is that of sleep. It is absolutely essential that your children get enough sleep in order to keep their bodies running well period now that school is almost done for this semester your children will have an opportunity to enjoy some time off at home for the Holidays. If your children have been on a set sleep schedule during the school year it will be best to maintain that schedule now that school is not in session. Remember that the Christmas holiday seems like it will be long and then once Christmas arrives very quickly it turns to January and the and the holiday break. 

You and your Co-parent should work together to prevent your children from falling into bad sleep habits during the Christmas holiday. It is amazing how significant an impact sleep can have on the mental and physical development of your child. Oftentimes parents emphasize good study habits in physical movement in sometimes neglect sleep. All sorts of professionals in the field of Pediatrics will tell you that sleep is extremely important to children both young and old. You can work with your Co-parent on setting specific times for bedtime and morning rising. 

Finally, you and your family can coordinate efforts on getting the kids up and moving. Like sleep, physical exertion these important to a child's health both physical and mental. Studies have shown that getting up and moving around is a key portion of staying healthy mentally. I can think of no period of time where this is more important than during the coronavirus pandemic. We all have a tendency to look to the news and get fixated on typically bad news. Going for a walk around the block or playing catch in the backyard is a great way to break up the day and get some exercise. 

Should you be limiting your child's exposure two other people? 

This is a big question that many parents are asking themselves right now. Health experts and government officials have cautioned against large gatherings of people in this sometimes even meant that get togethers around the Holidays were either prohibited by law or recommended against. Ultimately it is up to your family to decide what to do for your cells. I would again defer to the authorities, and government rather than giving you any advice based on my own opinions. 

However, ultimately the decisions that you make should be based on what you think is in the best interest of your children. You may find yourself in a position where you are less prone to keeping your child at home while your child's other parent is very much against your child socializing or being around other people right now. Keep in mind that your child's other parent cannot prohibit you from doing anything with your child other than something that presents an immediate risk of harm. You should defer to your child custody or divorce decree before taking your child anywhere. However, the concerns of your Co-parent are not necessarily enough to prevent you from taking your child places during the Holidays. 

However, in the spirit of Co-parenting, you may want to talk with your Co-parent about his or her feelings on socializing and getting together during this time of the year. It defeats much of the purpose when one parent does attempt to distance their child from others while the other parent has no regard for that. I can understand how this would be frustrating coming from the perspective of both parents. However, taking an opportunity to work together to get through an important topic like this can help you all prepare for the next challenge that you face when it comes to Co-parenting. It may not feel like it right now, but there will be other challenges that you and your Co parent will have to face that have nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic.

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as the services provided to our clients by our attorneys and staff. 

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