We previously blogged about the guidelines prepared by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (“AAML”) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (“AFCC”) in March 2020 for parents dealing with custody and parenting time issues during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We know that many divorced and separated parents are still struggling with issues relating to custody, parenting time and co-parenting during this unprecedented situation. To aid in that struggle, the AAML has issued 19 tips to help parents, as well as children, with parenting-related issues during this difficult time. The full text of the AAML article can be found here: https://aaml.org/page/AAMLPressRelease19TipsforParentingDuringCOVID-19L
Some of the highlights from the tips offered by the AAML, which emphasize practicality and sensibility, are listed verbatim below:
FOLLOW COURT ORDERS as much as possible.
Some court orders provide for reasonable and likely contingencies, but no one could have anticipated this unprecedented situation. Adjustments will inevitably be necessary. But the closer you can adhere to the original court orders, the less the likelihood that you will suffer legal consequences later. Many jurisdictions have mandated that parents follow existing court orders. Judges will not regard favorably parents who use the coronavirus as an excuse to change an agreement unilaterally.
BASE YOUR DECISIONS AND CHOICES ON RELIABLE NEWS SOURCES.
Do not be swayed by the rumor mill on social media. Depend on major national and local media and government sites like cdc.gov (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for your information. If a startling story appears on one site, check to see if it is confirmed by other reliable sources.
Be completely transparent with your ex about any possible exposure of your child or a family member to the virus, and certainly about any symptoms your child may exhibit.
For Parents and Children:
TELL THE TRUTH.
Children will have many questions about the drastic changes in their circumstances as a result of the pandemic. It’s extremely important to explain what is happening as best you can, according to what is appropriate for your child’s age group.
Even the smallest and most fearful child can gain confidence by being taught steps he or she can take to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Washing hands and being healthy in general are good beginning steps. You can also teach your child about social distancing whenever she does go outside—to the park, for instance, or to the grocery store. Children can even have fun guessing and then measuring to see how big a distance of six feet actually is.
Taking Care of Yourself:
PRACTICE CALMING TECHNIQUES.
We all need some help chilling out during this crisis. If you haven’t done it before—or even if you’re already an expert at the One-handed Tree Pose–this might be a good time to try an online yoga class, focusing particularly on your breathing. Or you may decide to learn to meditate. Your children could even try some of the yoga poses with you.
REMEMBER THAT AT SOME POINT THIS WILL END BUT WHAT YOU DO NOW WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.
Governor Cuomo of New York mentioned in one press conference that he had some of the best conversations he ever had with his daughter when she was self-isolating, because he was giving her his full attention. Parent and child isolated together, or parent and child trying to connect virtually, may find that they have special opportunities to give each other their full attention, which seldom happens in our usual rat-race days. When this is all over, those unique connections, those moments of closeness, may become surprisingly precious memories. You are demonstrating now how important your child is to you by the attention you are giving him and your commitment to keeping her safe.
Thomas Roberto, Esq. is a partner and shareholder with ALBFRM in Haddonfield, New Jersey. He focuses his law practice on all aspects of divorce and family law. These tips provide useful guidelines but every case is unique in many ways. If you are experiencing family law difficulties, it is best to consult an experienced family law attorney.