In late March, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a decree announcing that the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, does not change child custody arrangements and co-parenting plans for Washington families.
Furthermore, the governor urged co-parents to make a special effort to communicate during this challenging time in order to “maintain family relationships and to protect the best interests and health of each child.” The stay-at-home order is in place through at least May 4.
Groups offer co-parenting tips during this stressful time
Soon after social distancing and more restrictive measures were put in place, two organizations that deal with families in crisis – the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) – offered these seven guidelines for divorced and separated parents during the pandemic:
- Be Healthy: Comply with all federal, state and local guidelines for hygiene practices and stay informed, by turning to reliable media sources and avoiding the rumor mill.
- Be Mindful: Be honest with children about the seriousness of the pandemic but avoid careless comments or exposing them to endless media coverage.
- Be Compliant: Honor existing court orders and custody agreements and avoid, as much as possible, trying to change them despite the unusual current circumstances we face.
- Be Creative: Find ways for children to remain close to the parent out of the household, through FaceTime or Skype, or sharing activities, such as reading a book, watching movies or playing games.
- Be Transparent: Be honest with the other parent about any confirmed or suspected exposure to the virus and work together on a plan to protect your child.
- Be Generous: Work to provide makeup time for the parent who missed any scheduled visits with children. Judges expect reasonable accommodations to be made when unusual circumstances arise.
- Be Understanding: Accept that the pandemic may create economic hardships for one or both parents, and that could affect child support payments. Those paying support should try to provide at least partial payments, and the parent receiving money should try to be accommodating.
Actions speak louder than words during uncertainty
While the COVID-19 pandemic creates a challenging time for everyone, dealing with adversity can be an opportunity for parents to work together and focus on their children’s well-being. The challenging time we live in will create vivid memories for kids, and it’s essential that they remember their parents did everything they could to keep them safe.