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Parenting with Coronavirus

Covid-19 (Coronavirus) may cause confusion for separated or divorced parents with schools closed and other things changing the way families live. In other words the world has changed so does this change my parenting arrangements?

There is no magic answer. However, a team of mental health and legal professionals who belong to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) have developed Guidelines for Parents and other resources about Coronavirus to help you and other parents.

These Guidelines are summarized below, and are adapted for the Canadian context.

1. BE HEALTHY

Comply with all Health Canada guidelines and:

  • model good behavior for your children with good hygiene
  • practice intensive hand washing (at least 20 seconds). Sing Happy Birthday twice, the ABC song or other favourites
  • wipe down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched
  • monitor your health and watch for any symptoms
  • maintain social (physical) distancing

This also means BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumour mill on social media.

2. BE MINDFUL

Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal. Doctors, health care workers and governments are working together to take on this challenge. Encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate and validates their feelings.

3. BE COMPLIANT – with court orders and parenting agreements

As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. Court orders exist to prevent unhelpful disputes over the details of time sharing. Be cooperative and try to keep communication informative, friendly and focused on the children’s best interests.

4. BE CREATIVE

At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when the economy is scaling back to essential services. As such, some parents will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change but the most important thing is to show leadership and confidence to the children by working cooperatively with your former spouse, as much as possible. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games and FaceTime or Skype. Everyone is already feeling under pressure from the uncertainty. Try as much as possible to minimize
conflict and avoid arguments with, or in front of the children.

5. BE TRANSPARENT

Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to Coronavirus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect your child from exposure. All parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.

6. BE GENEROUS – Take the high road

Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made. During unusual circumstances such as these, opportunistic, unreasonable or inflexible behavior by a parent will not be viewed favourably by judges during future court applications.

7. BE UNDERSTANDING

There is no doubt that the pandemic will cause economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to pay the required amount and, if the full amount is impossible, continue to pay as much as possible. The parent who
is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under challenging and temporary circumstances.

Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It’s important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to keep their child appropriately informed, as well as calm and safe.

If you are still not sure what to do contact your lawyer. If you don’t already have a lawyer then contact Patricia Routien at 250-595-2220 to arrange a consultation with one of our lawyers.