HOW WILL MANDATORY COVID-19 QUARANTINES AFFECT DIVORCED CO-PARENTS
The Effects of Quarantine on Divorced Couples discussed by Brick Family Lawyers
For families, whose co-parenting and custody arrangements were already a touchy subject, COVID-19 may be amplifying conflicts and creating new ones.
For separated or divorced families, co-parenting can be stressful even in good times. During the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, families are discovering that previously stable arrangements may not withstand the stresses created by fears of illness and mandates to shelter in place or mandatory self-quarantine regulations when returning from out of state.
The key to peaceful coexistence when it comes to child custody arrangements is communication. The more information, ideas, concerns, and possible solutions that are shared between you and your ex-spouse, the easier the situation will be.
In a crisis, children and parents alike need a place where they feel safe. Safety is typically found in family and when there is discord, children feel insecure. Post-divorce parenting falls into three categories: conflicted, parallel, or cooperative, according to Dr. Charuvastra, a leading psychologist in the area of family counseling. The majority of divorced parents start out either in a conflicted or parallel mode. Conflicted parenting is where the parents frequently argue with each other, often about parenting or money. Parallel parenting is where parents do not communicate much, and children live in two disconnected spheres. Cooperative parenting is where parents are flexible, communicate, compromise, and try to create a single parenting world for their kids, even though there are two households.
When it comes to parenting, emergencies force us to adjust to an unexpected and sometimes upsetting new set of facts. Even for parents who have had very little success communicating and compromising, the latest health crisis has brought about a change in attitudes and parents are more willing to work together for the health and well-being of their children.
What Should I Do If My Child Has Visited My Ex In Another State?
Under the 14-day quarantine travel advisory announced by the Governors of New Jersey, individuals traveling to or returning to New Jersey from states with increasing rates of COVID-19 are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days. This includes travel by train, bus, car, airplane, and any other method of transportation. There are approximately 30 states on the list which can be found here.
The Governor’s order states: “Travelers and residents returning from impacted states should self-quarantine at their home, a hotel, or another temporary lodging. Individuals should only leave the place of self-quarantine to seek medical care/treatment or to obtain food and other essential items. As one example, no one who has traveled to or from a state on the COVID-19 hotspot list should be participating in or attending an in-person graduation ceremony.”
With these stipulations, you and your former spouse are going to have to work together and be as flexible as possible. The key is communication. If your ex wants to quarantine with your child in New Jersey, there are several options such as a hotel or Air B&B. You could offer to make grocery trips to help with the quarantine. If those 14 days are extra time that the child has with your ex, be sure and put the agreement in writing in case you need the details for future agreements.
On the other hand, if your ex refuses to change the plan and wants to make a quick drop off at the conclusion of their time, as originally planned you could be in trouble because that would mean your child’s quarantine would fall directly on you. It may affect your job or if you have any high-risk relatives that live with you. If you plan to self-isolate at home, make a detailed record of what you do and the expenditures incurred.
How Can We Create a Temporary Emergency Plan?
Negotiating a temporary agreement can mean setting up adherence to the new plan until a specific date, or it can be more flexible (Ex. Until Phase 2 or 3 is in effect). Also, there should be a stipulation as to what happens if someone within one home or the other becomes sick or tests positive for the virus. In keeping in line with the children’s best interests, parents who work in hospitals or are first responders may want to reconsider prolonged home visits with their children due to the possibility of exposure. Your attorney is your best resource to build this temporary plan.
What If I Lose Visitation Time due to Quarantine Restrictions?
1. Talk with your ex
Discuss with your ex and plan more visits or an extended period of time to make up for the missed visitation. It can be that simple.
2. Take advantage of technology.
Although it is not the ideal, watch movies on a shared screen, cook together or read a book. It is not the same as a face-to-face visit, but it can certainly go a long way when your child is missing you.
3. Establish a “Social Distancing” contract.
This can be a simple written document in which you both agree to follow CDC and local guidelines that both of you and your child wear a mask and stay in the “family bubble”. Including actual social distancing guidelines (no birthday parties or book clubs) and an agreement to follow diligent hygiene practices can bring peace of mind to the parent who does not have the child with them. However, this contract does not permit either parent to withhold visitation because they feel the other parent is not following the proper guidelines and is putting the child at risk for exposure.
What it all boils down to is communication and a willingness to put the needs of your children ahead of your feelings toward your ex. Neither party will be 100% happy all the time and juggling visitation while trying to keep your family safe during a pandemic can seem an insurmountable task.
Contact a Monmouth County Co-Parenting Attorney Today
This is why our family law experts at Bronzino Law our unique approach to family law centers around creating family life plans out of family law problems. By listening carefully to all of your needs and concerns, and keeping you highly informed and involved throughout the legal process, we believe we can work together to achieve the results you need in your unique legal situation.