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What to do if your co-parent isn’t having your child wear a mask?

Topics related to the coronavirus such as mask wearing, and social distancing are all difficult for an attorney to write about. Yes, they do relate to parenting, co-parenting and other custody issues in both divorce and child custody cases. Family law attorneys also work as closely with their clients as any attorneys in any field of the law. It's just the nature of this line of work that we become a part of the family so to speak. We learn things about families that are extremely personal, and we help people sort out difficult times and get through difficult situations. I think the coronavirus pandemic certainly qualifies as one of those times. 

When you are no longer living with your spouse and are going through a divorce or you have just completed a divorce the degree of difficulty associated with parenting or child increases. I don't think it's a shock for anyone to hear that parenting is better handled by two people than one. You may be a terrific single parent, but you almost certainly would do better raising your child with another parent in the household with you. From what I've observed with clients of our law office coordinating the raising of a child with a person you no longer live with can be quite challenging. 

The way that many families coordinate their efforts in parenting a child after a divorce or child custody case is through a method called co-parenting. The name pretty much says it all. Co-parenting describes the coordination of parenting efforts towards the raising of a child. It is a collaborative effort for a mother and a father, who may no longer live together, to put aside their differences and make decisions that are in the best interests of their child. It may not always feel great to do that coming from the parents’ position, but your child will undoubtedly benefit from the input of both parents into their lives. 

Co-parenting when your child's health and safety are at special risk 

whether we like to think about it or not our daily lives put us into situations where we assume a fairly substantial amount of risk. We may take it for granted but going for a run in the morning, getting in the car and driving to work even in the best of conditions leaves us exposed to a decent amount of risk. Eating a cheeseburger and going for a swim after work are more examples of risky behavior that we have all sort of collectively agreed is acceptable given the benefit in the relatively low levels of harm that the activities present to us. 

What the COVID-19 pandemic did was show us that the risks around us are perhaps more considerable than we would have liked to have believed previously. Think about when you walk into a store or supermarket these days. You now see clerks feverishly cleaning carts and baskets and anything else that people may touch. The thing to keep in mind is that you could always get sick by touching the cart and you could always get sick by touching items on shelves at a grocery store. However, because the current sickness is one that we are unaware of how severe it can be or how transmissible it is the level of caution surrounding it has increased compared to normal. 

So now we all find ourselves in a situation where our health and that of our children is at risk. Based on the data that we have regarding COVID-19 it certainly appears that children have a relatively low risk of catching the virus and also suffering serious harm and even death due to the virus. That is not my opinion you can go to the County website for public health and view the data yourself. Again, I am not here to tell you to take risk or not take risk regarding your health with out of your children. What I am here to tell you is that when it comes to co-parenting you need to be able to balance risk, reward and also your ability to communicate effectively. 

What should you do about the mask issue in particular? 

This is one of the trickier points of this entire discussion on the coronavirus and safety for your family. We have seen orders be given from our County officials who required us to wear masks in public places earlier during this pandemic. However, it became apparent that many people were not willing to follow the law in law enforcement was not willing to enforce the requirement. As a result, County officials stopped mandating that masks be worn in public. Businesses can and have required people to wear masks. Many office buildings, especially those that house doctors’ offices, still do require you to wear a mask. 

I do not want to come off as someone who is telling you what you or your family should do. I am not in that position nor do I have any specialized knowledge in how to best reduce the frequency with which this virus is transmitted from person to person. I especially do not want to be the person to tell you how to raise your children or how to best protect them. I will be stepping over a lot of bounds if I were to do that. What I can tell you is that each family should determine for themselves how they should proceed as far as wearing or not wearing masks. 

The most straightforward approach to determining whether or not you and your family should be wearing masks is to communicate with your ex-spouse on this subject. It may work out that due to requirements at your place of employment and that of your ex-spouse that you and your Co parent will be wearing masks for a majority of the day anyway for the foreseeable future. That is a different question as to what your children should be doing. 

The only thing that I can tell you is to defer to the advice of your child's pediatrician and to read as much as you can on this subject. My basic understanding of this subject is that well masks can help stunt the spread of this virus these efforts can be hurt pie constantly touching your mask, wearing the mask incorrectly or having a mask that does not fit your face well. I can't speak for you and your children, but I can tell you from experience that my kids do not do well with things it had to be worn over their head neck or face. I think it's just the nature of being a kid, but they will want to touch and fiddle with anything that is worn on or around their face. 

So, I do not have a specific answer for you in regard to whether or not wearing a mask is appropriate for your children. Only you can make that determination. If you want your children to wear masks, then when you are in possession of them you may have them do that. However, short of a law being passed or a commandment coming down from county officials in the form of an executive order, it is unlikely that your children will be required to wear masks. We can have a debate on whether or not this is right, but I do believe that this will be the case for the foreseeable future. of course, if you decide to have your child wear a mask then for your house that will be the law. 

If you truly believe in your heart of hearts that we're having your child wear a mask is for the best, you should talk with your Co parent about that. He or she may not share that opinion with you. At some point it may become the consensus that wearing a mask is for the best given these circumstances but to my knowledge right now that is not the case. However, if your intent is to convince your Co parent that wearing a mask is better than not it is easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar. 

What I mean by this is that you to do your best to not alienate your Co parent by beating him or her over the head with statistics and your own beliefs, but instead what you can do is defer to his or her sensibilities and their interest in doing what is best for your child. It is very unlikely that your Co parent will do something just because you think it is a good idea. In fact, that may actually work against you in some situations. If you are calm and considerate of your Co parents’ views, then I think you are much more likely to be able to convince him or her of the correctness of your viewpoint on this subject. 

The fact is that co-parents rely upon each other to follow through when it comes to protecting and disciplining children. My wife can ask me to keep an eye on one of our daughters in no particular area and if I don't do it she will correct me or remind me. However, if he was a Co parent do not live with your child's other parent it can make correction or reminding very difficult. As a result, you truly are taking a leap of faith with him or her. If you and your Co parent cannot trust each other then you have bigger issues on hand beyond just the consideration of whether or not to wear a mask and to require your children to do so as well. 

What if you truly believe that your Co parent is putting your child in harm's way? 

I think it is doubtful that your co-parent would purposely do anything to put your child in a situation where he or she is at risk of suffering harm. With that said it is not difficult do you imagine a scenario where an absent-minded parent or negligent parent allows her child to get sick more than other kids. I'm sure we can all think of situations where we forgot to have our children watch our hands before eating a meal or to do something similar. These are lessons that applied to the coronavirus pandemic and also two our lives in general even after the pandemic passes us by.

You should talk directly to your co-parent if you believe he or she is acting or failing to act in a way that is responsible from the perspective of your child health. It is your job to find the middle ground between better safe than sorry and harassing your Co parent. Truly take a step back and examine the situation for what it is. Short of your Co parent taking your child into large gatherings every day all day when he or she is in their possession I think most of the time concerns of this matter are probably overstated. 

If your child has a particular health situation to be mindful of it is worth mentioning to your Co parent that it would make sense to take it easy on occasion and limit your child's exposure to other people right now. I do not want to overstate the likelihood of he or she getting sick but it is a possibility the specific circumstances that your family finds itself in should take precedent. If you believe that your child is being put in harm's way because your co-parent is not acting responsibly and is not following the basic terms of her family court order, then it may be time to consider judicial intervention.

Questions about family law in the COVID-19 pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the information contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Are licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office, over the telephone or via video. These consultations are a great way for you to be able to learn more about your circumstances, Texas family law and the services that our law office provides to clients 

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