In light of the current state of things, here are some helpful tips for divorced and separated parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If you have a Court-Ordered Parenting Plan, you should continue to follow it. A global pandemic doesn’t change the status of a Court Order. We have no idea how the courts will treat the parent who refuses to follow the rules while things are in flux. Better to err on the side of caution and follow the rules if it is possible.
- If you don’t agree with how the other parent is handling things, re-read your Parenting Plan for how decisions are to be made and what decisions must be made together. You might believe that the other parent isn’t appropriately “social distancing” your kids from people, places and events. You might believe that attendance at a family event is unsafe. If your Parenting Plan is silent on these issues, look to the guidelines and regulations issued by the government. If a complete shutdown hasn’t been ordered, you can’t force a parent to stay home if they do not agree with you.
- If your child is sick, and you and the other parent are not in agreement about treatment, re-read your Parenting Plan for how medical decisions should be made. If your child’s illness is non-critical, you should still follow the regular schedule in your Parenting Plan for exchanges. You can ask the other parent to delay or modify the schedule due to the illness (and get those changes in writing!) but if the other parent refuses, you should follow the schedule. Make sure you provide all medical information and updates about the illness to the other parent so that things can be appropriately monitored after the exchange.
- If you have no childcare because school closed or your daycare closed, you need to communicate with the other parent to come up with a plan for childcare coverage. Some parents are being allowed to work from home but others aren’t. Some parents have more flexibility than others. Your Parenting Plan might also require that both parents agree upon a childcare provider.
- You may have to communicate with the other parent more than usual. Exchange locations and times may need to be adjusted because school is closed. Prescriptions and medical information may need to be discussed. Childcare coverage could be complicated. Conversations may be uncomfortable but they need to be done.
- If you have an upcoming Court date, it is possible that it will be cancelled and rescheduled if it hasn’t already been cancelled. Each courthouse is treating the situation differently. What St. Louis County has decided is different than what St. Louis City has decided. And even within each courthouse, each Judge is handling their dockets differently. If your court date has been cancelled, we will be contacting you. For the most up to date notices for all regional courts, click here.
- Each day, we are evaluating how to best serve our clients. We are making decisions each day based on the information available to us. We have families too and we are doing our best to remain available to our clients while keeping ourselves and our families healthy. We are lucky to be able to work remotely for most circumstances. We are happy to offer phone and virtual appointments for those not comfortable meeting in person during this time. Each attorney in our office is evaluating whether they are comfortable meeting in person. If you have an in-person appointment coming up, we will contact you to confirm before your appointment.