Co-parenting with your ex can be stressful at the best of times, especially if you don’t particularly get along. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many parents to wonder what the protocol is if they share parenting with their ex or if they have a specified parenting schedule. Should you children really be travelling between two households? Do court ordered obligations need to be upheld? What if you feel like your co-parent isn’t taking the proper precautions when it comes to isolation and social distancing?
Here are the top five things to keep in mind while you are trying to navigate how to co-parent with your ex through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meet court-ordered obligations
In a March 24, 2020 ruling an Ontario judge determined that in most cases court-ordered parenting arrangements must be upheld. This means that both parents should still have parenting time with their children and they can move between households while taking the proper precautions. This is because the court views access with both parents as paramount to a child’s health and wellbeing. That being said parenting time may be disrupted if one parent has to self-isolate due to travel, person illness or exposure to illness. Also, if one parent is clearly not following the necessary precautions (i.e. social distancing, washing hands etc.) direct child-parent contact should be reconsidered.
Communicate with your ex
This poses a particular challenge for co-parents who don’t get along. However, it is even more important during this global crisis to put differences aside and keep the lines of communication as clear and open as possible. Talk to your co-parent about the precautions you are taking to keep your child safe while they are in your care. If pick ups and drop offs usually happen at school, you should agree on another neutral place to meet. Courts are only hearing urgent cases at the moment so the more you can work out on your own the better. If you are unable to communicate effectively there are always mediators that you can access online that may help you and your co-parent work out a plan if you are unable to do so on your own.
Talk to your children
Make sure your children understand what is going on and why you have to take precautions when transferring them into the care of their mother or father. They will have heard lots about COVID-19 at school before the shutdowns and will likely have heard more on the news and through social media. They may be feeling unsettled and anxious with school closing, social events being cancelled and the general upheaval of their usual routine. Make sure they know that the precautions you are taking are serious but try to settle their nerves by reassuring them that if we all follow the guidelines it will be OK. Even if you would rather they stay under your roof remember that seeing their mother or father is part of their routine and it may make them feel more secure as well as instill a little bit of normalcy in their life. Kids come first and making sure they feel love, cared for and supported during this difficult time is vital.
One of the most important things to do right now is to be flexible. There is no precedent for what is going on and we truly can’t predict what is going to happen from one day to the next. Things regarding the pandemic are changing daily and so are the rules and regulations we need to follow to stay safe. Be ready to adapt when things change and work with your co-parent to figure out what this means for your children and both of your time with them. Remember, the health and well-being of your children always comes first, and it is important to keep that in mind when making custody arrangements in this new and ever-changing landscape.
The best thing you can do for your child right now is to take the necessary precautions and stay healthy. Taking the government recommendations of limited trips out of the home, washing hands and social distancing seriously is extremely important to ensure you are able to spend time with your children. It is also critical for the health and well-being of your community.