Sharing is a concept that, in my opinion, does not come easy to most people. I think the natural tendency for most of us is to want to keep what we have and, if anything, gain more of it. When we were kids and had a slice of cake, we could do with another piece but certainly wouldn't want to give up half of our cake so our brother or sister could have some. This isn't to say that sharing isn't a good thing or that maintaining what you have is a selfish tendency. However, sharing is something that, to become good at it, takes some practice.
Nowhere is this truer than concerning child custody in family law. When you and your spouse are married and living together, you naturally share parenting responsibilities. Not only did the nature of your relationship lend itself easily towards doing so, but the fact is that when you're living in the same house with your spouse, it is easier to delegate specific rules and parenting to one parent or the other. In my own home, my wife tends to handle particular jobs while I do others. This doesn't mean that I'm not capable of filling specific roles or that my wife isn't either. Still, I think we naturally drift into specific responsibilities and shy away from others.
Whatever the circumstances are for you and your family, I can almost promise you that parenting has not gotten easier during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our routines and general way of life have changed dramatically due to our response to this virus. As a result, the delicate balance of sharing parenting time between co-parents has been disrupted to an extent. How well you and your co-parent can share custody during this time will determine how strong your family is as we emerge out of this pandemic.
When you and your co-parent work together to accomplish a shared goal or task, your family is better off both in the long term and short term. How can you all begin to work together with sharing child custody during this pandemic if that had not been your strong suit before the beginning of this year? That is what I would like to discuss with you all today. If you need advice or perspective on How to improve your ability to share child custody with your co-parent during this pandemic, then look no further than this blog post.
Open the lines of communication, and everything else will fall into place
if you are a regular reader of our blog, you know that I am not a fan of beating around the Bush or being unclear with the advice we have to give. I heard an old saying a long time ago that I think is crucial for an attorney. That saying goes something like this: to be unclear is to be unkind. That means that if you are in a position or you can help someone, and you are not clear about the advice or help you were able to give; you were hurtful to that person rather than helpful. Let me explain further.
Sometimes in our lives, we are concerned so much with our feelings and those of the people around us that we attempt to beat around the Bush and not address issues that need to be addressed directly. While this may avoid unpleasant conversations and diminish the need to communicate with one another, it can cause a difficult situation to become more complicated and ultimately create a circumstance where we need to have an even Tougher conversation down the line with this person. There is a direct relationship between the strength of your relationship with another person and how willing you are to engage in difficult conversations with them.
This brings us full circle back to our original topic of sharing child custody during this pandemic. I think it is impossible to have a conversation on this topic without directly addressing how important it is for you to communicate with your co-parent. Without a doubt, I find that in the post-divorce or post-child custody lives of clients and former clients alike that the inability to speak with a co-parent leads to, almost inevitably, more significant turmoil down the road. If you thought your divorce was contentious and hard to get through, then a modification or enforcement case in a year or two could be even worse.
Add to that a global pandemic in all the stresses that the shutdowns, stayed home orders in general fears of getting ill add to that, and you have a potentially explosive situation. While it would be easy to rationalize your circumstances to avoid having difficult conversations, I would recommend that if you need to address a particular topic with your Co-parent, you should do so now rather than waiting. Trying to save your or someone else's feelings from hurt or avoiding a complicated issue altogether may feel good in the short term, but it will not provide you any benefit at all in a long time.
Consider this example that I think is relevant for many of us during this pandemic. Suppose that you were to become ill due to the virus or any other sickness in the weeks to come. It doesn't matter at this stage if you get sick with the virus or with any other condition. The fact is that we are all acutely aware of the impact that illnesses can have on our community, and we're going to take extra precautions to keep ourselves healthy right now. Coronavirus or not, if you get sick, then adjustments will need to be made and how you share time with your cold here with your child.
If you get sick, you need to communicate that to your co-parent. It would help if you did so no matter their reaction or how it could impact your time with your child in the short term. Be direct with your co-parent about your illness and what you are doing to get better. This means that your child would likely need to seek medical care from their pediatrician and probably be away from you for some time. Again, this is no different than if you had gotten the flu or any other sickness at any other period of time. However, since we are all in a state of mind that illness needs to deal with more diligently than usual, you should enter into this discussion with the timeline for your recovery and a plan to recoup lost parenting time with your child.
Conclusion: there is no guarantee that you're coherent will agree to the modifications you request as far as make-up time with your child. The plans you have created as far as getting back with your son or daughter may not be what your co-parent wants. It would help if you were prepared to go back and forth a little bit and discuss different options that suit both parties to make up the time with your child. If you were sick for two weeks and weren't able to see your child in the course of those two weeks and your tendency may be to want to make up this time in one fell swoop. However, given your child will be returning to school soon, their other parent may have different ideas in mind.
In this type of situation, the best you can do is be honest about your expectations and direct with your position to get back the time you have lost. This does not mean that you have to be aggressive or angry, or demanding. It does mean that you have to share your thoughts on child custody with your co-parent directly. Two people work together and document their discussions and are diligent about creating solutions to their problems; then, there is no limit to what they can achieve as a team. It may be that you have issues thinking about yourself and your co-parent as a team, given your history. However, at least with raising a child, that is precisely what you are.
Sharing the rights associated with medical and educational decisions with a co-parent
The last topic I would like to discuss regarding sharing child custody during the coronavirus is educational and medical decisions. Within your family court orders, there is a section dealing with conservatorships rights that you and your co-parent share with your child. If you have not done so in the past few years or months, I recommend reviewing those sections. You will be able to check what your responsibilities are about decision-making for your child and what circumstances call for you and your co-parent to make decisions together regarding your child's well-being.
I hope that you and your co-parent only have to make decisions better difficult with educational matters and nothing to do with the health of your child. From a statistical perspective, young children Are less likely to carry the virus or at least symptoms of it and have a mortality rate that is far lower than any other group of people. This is good news so far; it has led many groups to recommend that schools resume as close to normal as possible in the fall.
However, if circumstances change in the next few months and schooling as we have become accustomed to changes, you and your co-parent will be in a position where you need to decide your child's educational features. For instance, if your child's public school chooses not to resume in-person classes this fall, would you consider homeschooling your child or sending them to a private school? These are the sort of decisions that you and your co-parent would have to work through together, bearing in mind your family court order.
Some parents share almost every right to do a child in some form or fashion. If this is the case, then you need to be ready to speak to this circumstance with your co-parent and need to be able to share the decision-making responsibility. If you have a position that you believe will need to be argued with your co-parent, you should come into the discussion with information in an argument that you will consider persuasive. Failing to communicate well and then displaying a tendency not to share these essential decision-making abilities with your co-parent is a recipe for disaster.
Whatever circumstance you and your family find yourself in, know that you have what it takes to succeed and co-parent during this crisis. These are not pie in the sky platitudes that I'm serving to you. It's a simple acknowledgment that all you have to do is show some patience, be willing to communicate directly, and display hey readiness to cooperate and share as much as possible and as much as your orders call for. If you can do these things, then the rest of the details will fall into place as we all try to navigate this stage of the pandemic.
Questions about sharing child custody during the coronavirus pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us here on our blog. If you have questions about the information presented 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 consultation six days a week in person, via video, and over the phone. We hope that you will join us tomorrow as we share unique content about Texas family law.