What if My Co-Parent and I Disagree on COVID-19 Protocol?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of strain for co-parents that disagree on safety precautions. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on masks, social distancing, and how to protect themself and others during this time.
For co-parents who do not live together, the pandemic has the potential to be a confusing and challenging time. As the children spend time with both parents and move from household to household, there will likely be discrepancies when it comes to COVID-19 protocol.
Generally, one parent cannot dictate what the other parent does with the children during his or her parenting time. However, with COVID-19, if a child goes from strict isolation with one parent to going out mask-less and not engaging in social distancing with the other parent—that second parent’s behavior can have an impact on the first parent’s household. This is especially true for blended families.
Tips for Co-Parenting and COVID-19 Protocol
If you and your child’s other parent disagree on what is appropriate and safe behavior during this time, here are some helpful tips:
Refer to your legal agreements. When in doubt, always return to your legal agreements to see if there is written guidance for you and the other parent to follow. Is there a provision in your Marital Settlement Agreement, Custody Order, or any other Order from the Court that instructs you on what to do when there is a conflict? Are you supposed to return to mediation? If you do not have this in your legal agreements, ask your co-parent if he or she would agree to meet with someone to discuss the issue and resolve the dispute. Perhaps the other parent would agree to address this with a parent coordinator. Or, you could agree to consult a professional who could offer insight, such as a therapist or pediatrician. Parents can also agree to follow their child’s school COVID protocol in each household, as that is required of their child anyway to attend school in person.
Try to find a reasonable compromise. Although it can be difficult to find a middle ground, especially when it comes to health and safety, we encourage you to find a reasonable compromise. Set up a time to discuss this with your co-parent away from your children. Each parent can have the opportunity to be heard and perhaps after hearing from the other parent, there is room for compromise.
Ask for professional help. Even if your custody order does not state what you are to do in the event of a disagreement, that does not mean that you cannot seek out a mediator or a parent coordinator to help you resolve an issue. Outside professional help can alleviate stress for you, the other parent, and the children involved. They can also help you and the other parent come to shared decisions in a timely manner. The Court is not set up to handle these disputes on an emergency basis so alternative dispute resolution can be very helpful.
Consider a modification of the child custody agreement. If disputes regarding COVID protocol are a symptom of a larger problem between you and your co-parent, it may be time to consider modifying the child custody agreement to include mechanisms to resolve disputes. Child custody orders are created with the best interest of the children in mind. Custody orders can be modified if the court considers a significant enough change that is no longer in the best interest of the children. Learn more about how to modify your child custody decision here.
If you have questions about co-parenting and the pandemic, contact Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our main number 410-842-1070. For the foreseeable future, we will be available by telephone and virtually to serve our clients.