COVID-19 Terms to Consider Adding to Your Parenting Plan
Practically overnight, the pandemic imposed drastic changes on how families spend time away from home and interact with one another. For some divorcing and divorced parents, adapting to these conditions has led to heated arguments and even emergency court hearings. While it may not be possible to plan for every COVID-19-related challenge, there are steps parents can take that may help prevent future conflict. By developing parenting plan strategies and solutions before potential disputes arise, parents may be able to circumvent issues. And while it looks like the world is slowly getting back to normal now, this experience is an opportunity to plan for future emergencies.
Developing a co-parenting strategy amid COVID-19-related concerns can be complicated. This may be especially true when parents work in high-risk occupations or disagree about their children's health precautions. One way to avoid COVID-19-related parenting conflict is to prepare for these types of issues in your parenting plan. Parenting plans typically include key provisions regarding placement time and decision-making. Thinking ahead and planning for emergency circumstances that could impact these areas are essential to avoiding conflict.
Planning for Placement Time Contingencies
Wisconsin placement time schedules can be arranged in a number of ways. Many parents have shared placement where each parent has their children at least 25% of the time. Others divide their time 50/50, or they may have a split placement where different kids spend time with their parents in different households. Once parents determine their schedule, they seldom want to make changes or give up some of their placement time. However, as we have all seen over the past 14 months, circumstances can arise that will make it necessary for families to adjust their expectations and schedules without warning. Thinking ahead and including some emergency contingencies and alternate scheduling in your parenting plan can help clarify how placement time and decision-making will occur if you or your ex suddenly need to make changes.
Discussing and Identifying Concerns and Solutions
When preparing your parenting plan, you and your attorney can develop terms that work for your circumstances but take COVID-19 concerns into consideration. If you already have a parenting plan, have an open conversation with your ex as soon as possible regarding possible COVID-19 contingencies and potential solutions. Once you identify your respective concerns and issues, you can work with your attorneys to modify your plan to help ensure that each of you gets adequate placement time and can make crucial decisions regarding children.
When preparing or modifying your parenting plan, it can help a great deal if both parties can be somewhat flexible. Parenting plans are finite. However, the circumstances of those they involve will change over time. Even outside of pandemic conditions, parents are probably going to have to adapt their plans according to the changing needs of their family. Viewing your parenting plan as a flexible tool meant to support your family rather than a rigid set of rules can help when it comes to making changes.
Considering Your COVID-19 Parenting Plan Terms
Considering issues such as whether a parent is a frontline worker or having contact with an immunocompromised individual can help parents determine how to adjust and balance placement time. For instance, if mom or dad is a nurse working in a hospital setting, parents can choose the most reasonable ways to shift placement time if there are unexpected schedule changes. Further, if a parent lives with or is spending time with an immunocompromised grandparent, the placement time schedule may need to be adjusted to allow for self-quarantine. There may also be periods when a child or parent is exposed to or tests positive for COVID-19, causing the other parent to miss parenting time out of health concerns. You may also need to consider issues such as household members traveling into higher-risk areas, or if parenting time will involve plane travel. Developing terms that are specific to your circumstances can help you and your ex navigate placement time while being mindful of your mutual concerns.
It's important to be reasonable in your expectations and actions regarding COVID-19 issues and other emergencies. For instance, if a parent misses time with their kids because of a COVID-19-related reason, allowing extra virtual visits and make-up parenting time is a rational and equitable response. When a parent refuses to accommodate the other under emergent conditions, it can harm the co-parenting dynamic going forward. Further, your children will be missing out on time with their other parent. In addition to straining the co-parenting relationship and depriving your children of contact with their other parent, this kind of rigidity is not likely to be viewed favorably by the court.
Getting on the Same Page
It’s common for parents to have joint legal custody. Usually, when parents have joint legal custody, they have equal decision-making authority. That ordinarily means that each will have some autonomy when making choices regarding their kids during their placement time. That being said, it’s not unheard of for the rules to vary somewhat from parental home to parental home. That may not be a problem with bedtimes and eating certain snacks. With the risk of transmitting COVID-19, however, consistency is key. Practicing the same precautions between houses may help prevent the spread of the virus and help keep the peace between parents.
It’s important to remember that this is an uncertain time for children, and having consistent rules in both parental homes may help them feel more secure. You can also avoid the potentially upsetting scenario where one parent allows the kids to socialize and be around others in public while other does not. When parents can agree on how they will maintain household precautions, it can help promote a positive co-parenting dynamic and engender a more peaceful parenting time transition. If you and your ex can’t agree on health precautions, you may want to consider agreeing to follow the guidance of a mutually chosen professional such as your children’s pediatrician.
Preparing alternate placement time schedule contingencies and developing COVID-19 specific parenting plan strategies and terms can help parents be more adaptable when there are emergency conditions. Having the advice that you need to prepare is essential. When you work with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney, you can review your circumstances and determine the best ways to plan for your family’s future health and well-being.
Consult with an Experienced Wisconsin Family Law Attorney