Parenting and Divorce during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic 

In 6 weeks, we went from feeling on top of the world to feeling anxious and full of questions about a sudden unknown disease that is plaguing not just the USA but the world as a whole. This past month, the Public Education Department had to close all public schools in Georgia and other states for the remainder of the year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Though we are slowly reopening Georgia, we are facing long term changes that can affect your future family situation. With job losses and financial struggles, modifications for support are on the horizon. 

Our worry was how the families who depend so heavily on the public school system for food and childcare were going to survive if the school was not an option. It appears our state and local school districts and many volunteers are working to help families with these needs.  My next thought was for the families we serve in our work as Family Law Attorneys.  

Parenting and Divorce During A Crisis- Divorce & Custody in Georgia- Attorney Sean R Whitworth

As if the stress of parenting and Divorce is not enough. Now parents need to develop a plan for at least three months and maybe longer, while their children are out of school.  Many Parenting Plans include provisions related to exchanges of “physical custody” to occur at school.  For example, one parent may be responsible at the end of their weekend timesharing period to return a child to school on Monday morning. While the other parent is to pick that child up from school to start their period of responsibility.  Now the question parents face is not only whose “time” it is when the children are not in school, but also whose “responsibility” it is to find childcare if both parents will still be working while the child is out of school.
Furthermore, for many children, this period of time crosses over their school Spring Break.  Parenting plans often include a provision for Spring Break that may divide the time equally, may alternate years with each parent, or may simply follow the “normal” timesharing schedule.  Families who were planning to go out of town have to decide if air travel is even possible. Kids are spending too much time in front of electronics and not enough time playing outside due to the restrictions. So what are we to do? We need to remain calm and creative during this time of social distancing and staying quarantined. 

Parenting and Divorce during a crisis are tough

To further complicate matters, people are facing charges in their support system during a divorce or separation.  This could include the in-laws that have always helped with the children now only being willing to help their child with the children and not the ex-partner.  It could also mean there was a recent move, and a neighborhood support system has not yet developed.  Or, like in so many divorces, friends of the couple either pick a side or distance themselves from the couple altogether.  Thus, when you really need your Village, the people you have historically relied upon may not be there for you any longer.  This is an incredibly difficult part of a divorce, but especially during a crisis such as we are seeing now.

Most parents during want to pull their children close and keep them safe 

Parenting and Divorce During A Crisis- Divorce & Custody in Georgia- Attorney Sean R Whitworth

Given the extreme contagiousness of the COVID-19 virus, we all want to make sure our children are clean and not exposed to any danger, while at the same time, we may also be caring for elderly parents who we are trying to protect.  The impulse to keep our children in our sight is very real, yet at this same time, we are asked to co-parent with someone we may not totally trust to behave as we would to protect our children.  We are trying to balance all of that with also needing to work to pay the mounting bills of now supporting two households instead of one and the possibility of childcare costs we had not planned for. Parenting and Divorce during normal circumstances can be complicated, but with current limitations that are going to last for a long time to come, it’s even tougher 

 

What is the “right” thing to do in terms of co-parenting during a crisis such as this? 

If possible, be kind to your child’s other parent.  If kindness is too much to ask, at least try for a polite business-like exchange.  Your children lack the stability of their school and possibly daily contact with their friends and support system; they do not need to feel as if their parents are not stable on top of that.  Try to be open to the possibility that you each may need help during this time.  Many employers are trying to be flexible with work schedules. This is a time to relax some of the normal timesharing periods and really try to figure out what works for both of you and your children.  This is not a time to be legalistic nor to demand “make-up” time.  Parents and children are re-scheduling travel plans all over the country. That makes this is an excellent time to look ahead at the schedule and see if that is something that can be worked out now or if it should be tabled until we know more about what the next few months will bring.  In addition, many children’s extracurricular activities are being canceled.  This may leave children feeling “bored” and frustrated.  Possibly, each parent could think of things that the child might like to do and offer time up to the other parent to do those things.  I have seen some great online lists of safe activities to do with children while they are out of school.  

Greater Atlanta Child Support

In the end, the right thing to do is what is best for your children. 

Reasonable parents can differ as to what that is for their particular child. Try to start with the assumption that even if the other parent might not do it exactly as you would, they are probably trying to do the right thing from their perspective.  
Reach deep inside to extend some generosity of spirit. You may just see that it is returned to you from the other parent.  So, go ahead and pack that backpack for an exchange with fun activities and hand sanitizer. Demonstrate to your child that they can count on you to keep their lives steady.
Attorney Sean R. Whitworth serves the people of the Greater Atlanta area, and though the office location is in Marietta, GA, Attorney Whitworth frequents all Atlanta area courts and is familiar with various county courts and their processes.  
 Book your free consultation with Attorney Sean R. Whitworth today. Call 770-824-3370  or book online 24/7 

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