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What should Texas parents be doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you are a regular reader of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan’s blog, then you probably are familiar with the type of blogs that we produce. Typically, we will write about a very specific area of Texas family law and how it could potentially interact with your family. Child custody, divorce, grandparent’s rights, etc. are all relevant topics to discuss because those are the issues that impact the clients we represent. Our clients are people just like you- working people who live in our community and have problems that need to be addressed with the help of legal assistance.

That’s where our law practice steps in. We don’t work for the courts, for attention or even for each other as attorneys. Rather, we work for you- our neighbors. We live in Houston and the surrounding communities and we want to see the lives of our fellow Houstonians bettered through knowledge and application of the law. There is nothing fancy about what we try to do to help, either. It’s straightforward and honest representation of clients that matters to us. We learn about your problems and we do our best to constantly work towards solving that problem and achieving your goals. 

While the topics that we encounter in the world of family law are general in nature (for the most part), where the work comes in is when your family has a divorce case that is much different than the person who lives across the street from you. No two families are alike, no two circumstances are alike and no two family law cases are alike. It’s the diversity of the facts and the diversity of the goals of our families that we represent that creates the challenges that our attorneys and staff tackle each day. 

Getting back to our blogs, we do our best to write blogs that are general in nature because it would be impossible to pinpoint on your family’s exact circumstances and write about them. Likewise, it would do your neighbor no good to learn about how to do a divorce that looks exactly like your family. His family looks nothing like yours. We want the lessons of these blogs to be as universal as possible in application and impact. Nobody knows better than the attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan that people’s circumstances can differ by extreme distances even if their physical distance from one another is relatively small.

The coronavirus led to a change in circumstances for many people

Let’s look at the most notable topic of our world these days- the coronavirus. Back in March many of us learned what the coronavirus was and how it had come ashore of the United States for apparently the first time. While we learn about whether or not the virus was actually in the USA much earlier, the fact is that the virus itself did not cause you to stay in your home for the past 10 weeks. 

The virus didn’t cause millions of Americans and Texans to lose their jobs. Our collective reaction to the virus that led to much of the uncertainty we have in our society today- to take nothing away from those people and family who are dealing with the sickness and death brought about by COVID-19.

In a way, COVID-19 is the great equalizer. Especially early on in the “quarantine” we saw celebrities and regular folks alike sitting in their homes and taken out of their normal work routines. While most of us have little in common with the biggest Hollywood celebrities, for a moment in time those differences were minimized due to the fact that as human beings we are all susceptible to sickness. 

Our work lives, family lives and social lives have been paused for a period of time approaching three months. While much of our state is “opening up” there still exists fear about a second wave of the virus hitting us in the wall or winter. More immediate concerns can be seen in national polls which show a relatively high percentage of us are concerned about whether or not we can even pay our rent or mortgage in June. Many of the jobs that have been lost due to our national response to the virus will likely not be coming back. 

All of that is to say: this is a hard time for the world, for Americans and for us as Texans. In a world where there is a seemingly endless source of information, there are seemingly fewer and fewer places where we can go to find reasonable opinions based on facts. Everyone has an opinion- but that and five bucks can buy you a cup of coffee tomorrow morning. What we need is to take a step back assess our own situation and make decisions based on the conditions we encounter, evolving as they may be. 

Parents play a crucial role in charting a course for our local response to this pandemic 

If you are like me, then as parents we have been answering questions from our kids about the coronavirus for months. Kids are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to obtaining information about this virus. Not only are our kids not capable of understanding issues like we are, they also don’t know where to look for good information. Their default source for information is you, me and the thousands of parents in our area. Our kids look to us for guidance on this subject even if they don’t know that we have as many questions as answers ourselves. 

While we worry about our economic lives, the fate of the world and our country and how quickly our lives can return to some semblance of normalcy, our kids have had their lives turned upside down as well. School has been out for months. Many kids probably met that reality with some glee initially, but ultimately kids live in a world of routine just like we as adults do. After a while of not being within that routine life can be a lot tougher to handle. Or at the very least it becomes less fun. 

Extracurricular activities, church, fun times with friends and excitement over the approach of summertime have all been snatched away from our children. While it seems that some of these anticipated events can and will occur with slight modifications, we can look at our lives and make decisions for our kids that help them to better process the world around them. Rather than stewing in our own fears and apprehensions, I would suggest we do our best to be proactive about bettering the lives our kids in small, manageable steps during the pandemic. 

In the remainder of today’s blog post I would like to share some thoughts on what we as parents can do to help our kids process the pandemic and the changes they may be experiencing in their lives due to an ongoing family law case as well as the virus itself. 

“New normal” applies just as much to life after divorce as it does to a virus

In the context of family law, “new normal” is often times a phrase that is used to describe the life of a family during and after the completion of a divorce. Especially when kids are involved, the daily and weekly lives of the family members can change dramatically once the “go” button is pressed on the divorce. Custody is now shared between parents, another home is added to the list of places where children spend their time and parents are forced to learn how to share time with their children. 

These are significant adjustments that need to be made on the fly. Adjusting to that new normal is why family law cases sometimes take longer than anticipated. The fact is that many families need to work the kinks out of a possession arrangement and therefore cannot wrap up their matter as quickly as others. If you filed a divorce at the end of February or the beginning of March then you know better than anyone that a divorce can take much longer to complete than you may have hoped or planned for. 

The first thing that I would do as a parent in this time is to help your child adjust as much as possible to splitting time between the homes of both of their parents. If you can manage to help your child in this regard then you would have taken the biggest step towards creating a routine for your kids that helps them adjust to the pandemic as well. While the pandemic will not be with us for years (we hope), the splitting of time between homes likely will be a reality for your children in years to come. 

Talk to your kids about the importance of spending time with their other parent. If your kids can see that you and your spouse/ex-spouse have a united front as far as the importance of building a relationship with the other parent then they will be much more likely to work towards adjusting themselves to a new routine. If they sense that you do not think it is important to have a relationship with their other parent then the transition will be bumpier. 

Even if both you and your spouse are working from home I would caution you on having an unsettled schedule for possession right now. If you were fortunate enough to get temporary orders set up or even a final decree of divorce signed off on by a judge, then you may want to stick to the plan contained in those orders as much as possible if you are recently divorced. 

Of course, if someone in your family is ill or if another circumstance arises that demands that you amend your possession orders on the fly you should do that. However, if you can stick to a set schedule for an extended period of time it would go a long way towards helping your children adapt to a situation that will truly be their “new normal” rather than a set of circumstances that will hopefully only be temporary that were created by our national reaction to the virus.

Co-parent as if you liked one another

The toughest part of a divorce for many families is having to work with your spouse/ex-spouse on raising your children. You are no longer married and there is less of an impetus to work with him or her on decisions regarding your kids. Theoretically, you all could never work together on parenting again and simply go off the court orders from your case. There would be nothing against the spirit or nature of your orders to do this. 

However, in a time where your kids are transitioning into a new chapter in their lives, co-parenting can ease that transition a great deal. You do not have to like your ex-spouse. You do not have to agree with him or her. But coordinating drop off and pick-ups, bed times, discipline, messaging on the COVID-19 pandemic and any other topic impacting your family can really stand to benefit your kids right now. Work with your ex-spouse to parent your children right now and put forth an effort. Leave the divorce behind and focus on your kids. If you approach co-parenting from a position of love for your kids and a business-like professionalism with your ex-spouse you are more likely to succeed as a parent during this time.

Questions about family law during the pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about parenting during this pandemic in relation to a Texas family law case, 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 over the phone and via video conference. These consultations are a great opportunity to obtain information and perspective on your particular circumstances. 

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