How to: Handle a Parenting Plan During a National Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating special challenges for all of us, but in particular for separated or divorced parents with young children.

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As more than half of American schools closed and with parents working from home, many people may feel overwhelmed. Even more so if you are a divorced parent with a parenting plan.

As always the best interest of the child is what should be paramount in making necessary modification to the parenting plan because of COVID-19. Though parents are generally hesitant to give up parenting time, it may be necessary given the current situation. Look first to the agreement you have in place to see if it affords for emergency contingencies.

In the alternative to a plan in place, if you and your ex can reach an agreement on a modification to the parenting plan, get it in writing or notify your attorney. When it comes to parenting time arrangements homeschool was probably not part of the parenting time plan. Who is best suited to homeschool the child if needed and who has the flexibility while working from home are questions that will need to be discussed. The concern for people who cannot agree on this is where do they turn? The courts will not be able to assist and the aid of counsel right now may prove to be difficult if not impossible.

Communication is key during this unprecedented time. It is not only essential with your ex but also with your child. Children will likely have question during this time. They may feel nervous, scared or anxious. Discuss with your ex how you are going to approach the topic. Additionally, how to handle chores and exercise during the day should be agreed. The majority of this time will be spent with one parent. Luckily, we are in the time of Facetime and Skype so your ex may now participate in saying good night, reading stories or even in the home schooling.

If you cannot agree on a change to the current parenting plan and you believe your child’s welfare is in jeopardy you can typically ask for court intervention. Of course, the issue must be an immediate risk of harm to your child and, due to the current crisis, getting in front of a court may be difficult. “In law, there is a large difference between being unwilling and unable to lawfully comply with a custody agreement,” says Jason R. Carpenter a family lawyer in Harrisburg PA. Family law judges expect parents to make reasonable accommodations. Down the road a judge will take into consideration parents who are not reasonably flexible during this time period. Once this difficult time is over, missed time with children should be made up and the parenting plan should be reinstated.

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