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How is COVID impacting parenting plans?

Dear Clients and Friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted for over a year now and even those who have not contracted the virus or lost a loved one have experienced havoc in the form of lockdowns, shortages, job loss and school closings.

If you are a parent bound by a pre-pandemic parenting plan, you may be finding that the pandemic is making it tough to follow because of safety considerations, logistical reasons or due to disagreements over decisions like whether your kids can have sleepovers, playdates at friends’ houses or participate in sports.

Take, for example, the school situation. Your parenting plan was likely crafted in large part with school in mind. But now, during the pandemic, you’ve been dealing with massive disruption to your kids’ schedules. Perhaps they’re remote full time, or they’re in school under a hybrid model where their “cohort” attends in-person classes twice a week and learns remotely the other days.

Imagine you and your ex work full-time, but the kids’ remote days are the same days they’re with you. Even if you’re working at home, you’re shouldering a disproportionate burden of childcare, supervising their remote learning during the day while trying to do your own job. Meanwhile the other parent works without disruption.

One of you may also be better equipped to provide the high-speed Internet and work space necessary to support home schooling than the other parent, which is an issue you didn’t contemplate when your original plan was implemented.

In such situations, it may be worth discussing a temporary, written modified plan designed to divide parenting time to equalize in-school and remote learning days between parents while maximizing the kids’ ability to learn. Such agreements can also account for sharing of costs for computers and better WiFi.

A parenting plan drafted in normal times may also need revisiting if one parent has a job involving significant contact with the public, creating a higher risk of infection for those in his or her household. Or one household may include a relative in a high-risk category, such as an elderly grandparent.

In such cases, the existing parenting plan may create conflict. For example, the parent living with the vulnerable relative may be concerned about asymptomatic children bringing the virus into the home but also fear that giving up physical parenting time, even as a temporary measure, will impact his or relationship with the children.

Dealing with situations like this calls for cooperation between the parents. If a parent needs to forego parenting time, the other parent needs to be conscientious about maintaining that parent’s connection with the kids over Zoom, FaceTime or other videoconferencing.

We can help you negotiate an agreement to address these issues and help you seek approval from a judge if necessary. The necessity for the latter may vary from state to state. A judge’s willingness to approve a modification may vary as well. Call us to see if we can be of help.

Best, Ron

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