Over the past year, we’ve learned that custody arrangements require great flexibility to endure and protect children and parental rights during a public health emergency.
If you and your spouse are recently separated in 2021 are creating new temporary plans for custody, you are probably wondering, how does Covid-19 fit in?
In her new feature article for the New Jersey Law Journal, “Post-Pandemic, Child Custody Agreements Will Never Be The Same“, family law expert Bari Z. Weinberger examines custody challenges brought about by Covid-19, outlining easy steps divorced parents can take to pandemic-proof their custody arrangements.
Creating a Covid Contract
Bari encourages divorce or separated co-parents to possibly consider establishing a “Covid contract” in which they agree on common sense rules around things like safety precautions and travel guidelines, and certain parenting time arrangements that would only apply during the pandemic, such as converting in-person time to virtual parenting time as needed.
According to Bari, the agreement could be limited to the duration of pandemic and labelled as such. E.g., “This agreement is in effect for the duration of the pandemic,” or “This agreement is in effect until XXX date.” Better still, build in specific contingencies, such as “until full-time in-person school starts again” or “until Parent A returns to working full-time at the office.”
What Should A Pandemic Co-Parenting Plan Contain?
For parents who decide to create a new temporary parenting plan, Bari provides the following guidelines for the issues you might want it to address:
- Determine the best way to divide the child’s time between each parent.
- Include rules for child-exchange that take pandemic restrictions into account, such as travel advisories and quarantine needs.
- Include a detailed schedule for homeschooling to ensure that school time remains separate from normal at-home time.
- Include rules for meeting with people outside the household, e.g., is meeting with friends entirely prohibited or can there be limited exceptions, such as one friend, but outside, masked and 6 feet apart? When and where will children be required to wear masks? Can a parent take a child to a restaurant if they eat outside?
- Include rules for parental behavior as well. It is important to model consistency for children. At the very least, rules should state that each parent agrees to follow state and county public health directives.
- Include other behavioral restrictions that both parents can agree on, such as limiting screen time, social media time, or movies and TV shows deemed age inappropriate.
- If things will be different over the holidays, include a separate time-sharing schedule that takes holiday traditions and activities into account to preserve some sense that not everything has changed.
- Include a way to exercise make-up parenting time lost due to the pandemic. A parent relying on Zoom during the crisis may want to request some extra in person time after the crisis is over.
- Describe the duration of the agreement and include specifics about what will happen when it ends.
How long should your Covid-19 Parenting Plan last?
In general, parents can also agree to revisit the plan at a certain date to see if things can go back to normal or whether another temporary modification makes more sense. Parents in the process of divorce can create two plans at once: A “Covid Plan” and “Non-Covid” plan.
Have questions about modifying your child custody arrangements due to Covid concerns? Our attorneys are here to help. Please contact us today to schedule your initial confidential consultation. Call 888-888-0919, or please click the button below.