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COVID 19 GUIDELINES FOR DIVORCED PARENTS WHO ARE SHARING CUSTODY OF CHILDREN

From the leaders of groups that deal with families in crisis:

1. BE HEALTHY.
Comply with all CDC and local and state guidelines and model good behavior for your
children with intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are
frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. This also means BE INFORMED.
Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumor mill on social
media.

2. BE MINDFUL.
Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude
and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal in
time. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing
them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on
24/7, for instance. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions
and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age appropriate.

3. BE COMPLIANT

With court orders and custody agreements.
As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual
circumstances. The custody agreement or court order exists to prevent endless haggling
over the details of timesharing. In some jurisdictions there are even standing orders
mandating that, if schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as
though school were still in session.

4. BE CREATIVE.
At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are
being advised not to fly and vacation attractions such as amusement parks, museums and
entertainment venues are closing all over the US and the world. In addition, some parents
will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of
work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change.
Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared
books, movies, and games, and communication through FaceTime or Skype.

5. BE TRANSPARENT.
Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure
to the virus and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from
exposure. Certainly, both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any
possible symptoms of the virus.

6. BE GENEROUS.
Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law
judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take seriously
concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual
circumstances.

7. BE UNDERSTANDING.
There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost
earnings for many, many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who
are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something,
even if it can’t be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be
accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.
Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is
best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid
memories. It’s 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.

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