In a recent article in the New York Law Journal, Judge Jeffrey Sunshine commented on co-parenting during the pandemic from the point of view of a judge who decides custody issues. He noted that since parents with non-emergency custodial issues were unable to access courts at this time to resolve their disputes, some parents, while their case is pending, and other parents, who even have custody orders in place, are taking advantage of the courts’ closure to make the other parent’s access to their children more difficult and even to prohibit visits. He notes that parents’ current behavior would impact his decisions regarding custody when the courts reopened.
As mediators, thanks to online and other technological capabilities, there have been no closures and couples can still attend mediation sessions to work out their custody and other marital issues.
But on a more fundamental level, Judge Sunshine’s comments are important for all families who are living apart and sharing custody. The daily toll the pandemic takes on everyone is great, particularly on children whose world has been turned upside down and whose feelings of security are more dependent than ever on a caring relationship they have with both parents and the feeling of calm and certainty that parents generate. Child professionals are united in their belief that the way parents treat each other in this time of quarantine will impact their children’s lives and shape the relationship and level of trust the children will have with their parents and others.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts have issued guidelines for parents who share custody to help their children better navigate this unsettled time. Among them:
• Be compliant with custody agreements. Avoid reinventing the wheel even for these unusual circumstances. Some jurisdictions actually have mandated that while schools are closed, custody agreements should be followed as if school were in session.
• Be honest with your ex about any possible exposure of your child or a family member to the virus and try to decide together the steps you will take to protect the child from exposure.
• If your ex is not able to see the child as much as customary, be generous in arranging for the child to have more time with your co-parent later, when the crisis is over. Be creative and encourage closeness with the co-parent who cannot visit as often, through shared books, movies and games and frequent communication through FaceTime or Skype.
• Be flexible. If you are the parent providing child support and lost your job, try to still give a little support. If you are the one receiving support, try to be accommodating during these temporary and challenging times.
• For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It is important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep their child safe.
Experienced custody and divorce mediation lawyers for New York families
At Divorce Mediation Professionals, we understand that all parents want to make the transition to co-parenting after divorce mediation as simple and conflict-free as possible. If you would like to take advantage of our divorce mediation