Tips for Co Parenting (During a) Crisis
If you and your ex have embraced social distancing and the only issue you’ve had is choosing which picture of you and your brood in matching outfits is most Insta-worthy, this post is not for you. If you’re trying to catch your breath from hysterical laughter after imagining such an idyllic dynamic, hold up. I just saw a guy pumping gas in a hazmat suit and barely gave him a second glance. So, bear with me when raising the bar for what once seemed delusional. For today, at least, the line between dystopian fantasy and reality is blurry at best. I mean, if you haven’t either made or heard at least three references to ‘The Twilight Zone’ since this all started, I would venture to say that you’re among a select few. It should be no surprise that this apocalypse like thinking has bled to every aspect of human life, including Florida Family Law.
On April 1, Governor DeSantis signed Executive Order 20-91 outlining a stay-at-home policy for Floridians. The initial pandemonium hit as parents across the state envisioned working from home while their kids were stuck in the house due to school closures. The stress is real. With their headphones plugged into their iPads, eyes glazed over for hours on end, you could almost be convinced it’s a typical pre-pandemic Saturday.
Dealing with their inevitable temper tantrum/refusal to pitch in around the house/whining declaration that you are being SO UNFAIR about (fill in the blank) without the ability to ship them to a friend’s house, however, and your feelings of hostility can be alarming. Throw a contentious co parenting relationship in the mix and the nightmare of social distancing can go from ‘Leprechaun’ to ‘The Shining’ in no time.
Whether your ex is accusing you of non-compliance with Florida’s strict quarantine restrictions or is using the pandemic as an excuse to stray from your time-sharing schedule, COVID-19 has upset the often fragile balance of power between divorced or separated parents. For most families, this is uncharted territory. Unless your ex is a survivalist, chances are there’s no pandemic clause in your custody agreement. Sheesh, didn’t we learn anything from the time of consumption and the Bubonic Plague?!
This new normal has led to many parents unilaterally altering their existing custody arrangements under the guise of protecting their children’s health and safety. But, unless your child has a compromised immune system or your ex has tested positive for Coronavirus, the pandemic is hardly a get out of jail free card. In short, Florida’s stay at home order does not apply to time-sharing agreements and straying from your existing schedule can land you in hot water with the judge once the crisis passes.
If you’re looking for advice on how to adapt during this new normal, you’ve come to the right place. Stick to the following guidelines and you could emerge from this pandemic with little more than a mild case of PTSD and an ever-present sense of gnawing anxiety.
How to Navigate Co Parenting During COVID-19
While nothing may seem sacred in our current surreal environment, old axioms remain true. One of these being the old line about assumptions. To minimize your exposure to a potential contempt action, and for your own mental health, don’t assume anything about your ex’s COVID-19 setup. This ranges from what’s going on in their household or their exposure to the virus.
Don’t make unilateral decisions about your current time-sharing schedule. If you have legitimate concerns about your co parenting arrangement, communication is key. Air your worries in a constructive manner so that you and your ex can decide what is in the best interest of your children together.
Make sure any discussion regarding your time-sharing schedule is memorialized in writing. This record can be created via text, email, or an app like Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents; whichever mode is designated in your custody agreement.
Above all, remember your kids are watching. How you handle this crisis, and co parenting in general, will inevitably affect their resilience after this nightmare has ended.
If you have found yourself fighting this battle, you’re not alone. Schedule your telephone or video conferencing consultation today. We’re here to help you, both through this pandemic and after, as we forge into an uncertain future together.
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