The Importance of Co-Parenting in Today’s Crisis
As a mediator , I cannot emphasize to separated parents how i/mportant co-parenting is, especially at this time. We all need to work together, and it is critical that separated parents put aside their differences and assist one another where they can. It is possible that one parent is a ‘key worker,’ such as a nurse or teacher, and the other parent is required to step up and assist with childcare where they were not previously a primary caregiver.
To get through this current crisis, everyone must consider how their actions will affect everyone in the short term.
I’ve received numerous calls from parents concerned about how the fresh things affect their existing agreements, and I’ve listed the most common questions below:
I currently have a Child Arrangements Order in place that requires the children to see their father every other weekend. My ex-partner, who is a nurse, is able to work from home and is not classified as a “key worker.” Does the fact that my children spend more time with him to allow me to work imply that the arrangement will continue after the epidemic?
We are entering unprecedented times, and it is difficult to predict how the judiciary will handle matters in the aftermath of this pandemic. In the above scenario, if the father applies for the children to spend more time with him or to have shared care, the Courts will usually consider the “status quo.” It is unknown how long the current situation will last or how long children will be absent from school. Your children will be able to attend school if you are a key worker, but you may choose not to do so for health and safety reasons. In my opinion, it will be wrong for the courts to penalize you for doing your valuable work. I would recommend that both parents co-parent and reach a parenting agreement that clearly states that any new arrangement is a temporary measure, as well as discuss what will happen if you or your ex-partner contract the virus. When people are vulnerable and may not be thinking clearly, having a plan in place and being proactive rather than reactive has advantages.
Another option is to use mediation to reach a parental agreement. Discussions can take place via Zoom or Skype, and the mediator can discuss and document a clear plan. You have control over the process at mediation, and you can discuss how to deal with the current situation in a safe environment.
I don’t communicate with my ex-partner, and we haven’t discussed anything about what’s going on, and I’m worried that one of us will contract the virus?
Mediation is an excellent tool for engaging in controlled communication with your ex-partner. We are not currently conducting face-to-face appointments as a mediation practice due to the current situation, but that does not mean we cannot assist. Mediations can take place via video link, according to the mediation regulations. This can actually occur on a shuttle basis, in which I call you both individually and then go back and forth across try to reach an agreement, or it can take place in a three-way video conference on Microsoft Teams, Skype, or Zoom. As mediators, we can assist you in reaching an agreement on a Parental Agreement that is as detailed as your individual circumstances require.
Mediation is your process, and in some cases, it can be completed in a single session. Each case is unique, so please contact me if you would like more specific advice on how mediation can help you.
My ex-wife won’t let me see the kids because they’ve gone into self-isolation. I believe she said this to keep me from seeing the children!
Again, this is an unprecedented scenario, and I hope that during this difficult time, parents will band together and be compassionate to one another in the face of the current pandemic. I understand that this is not always the case, and that some people will use the situation to isolate the other parent. It is possible to care for the children while also self-isolating, but it is critical to follow government guidelines and avoid contact with anyone while self-isolating. This may be possible if you pick up your children from the car and immediately return to your house. Again, this is unprecedented, and I am proposing practical solutions to help in such a scenario, which many separated parents will undoubtedly face.
If they are isolating themselves, you can keep in touch with them through regular video calls. I also saw on the news last night that grandparents are teaching children via video links, and absent parents could do the same to help home school their children if they are in isolation and you are unable to visit them. It is important to maintain a positive attitude and to think of creative ways to stay in touch until the situation has passed. Mediation could help once more, and I can do so via video link. Please keep in mind that mediation is entirely voluntary, and if the other parent refuses to participate, the only other option is to initiate court proceedings. At the moment, the Courts are still open and there is no prohibition on filing an application, though hearings will most likely take place via video link.
Can children travel between parent’s homes now that we’re under lockdown?
Yes, the government has permitted children of separated parents to travel between households. The fact that we are under lockdown should have no bearing on the number of times children spend with each parent. The only issue I’ve seen with this is if there is someone vulnerable in the household and it may not be safe for the children to pass between households. Each situation is unique, and careful consideration must be given to the risk in both households.
I will make every effort to keep people informed of new legislation as it is announced. If you are unsure about your situation, I offer a free consultation and would be happy to discuss it with you.