Navigating Holiday Parenting Plans During a Pandemic
Chances are, if you are divorced and share minor children with your ex-spouse, 2020 has been an exceptional challenge when navigating parenting plans and custody agreements.
With local health guidelines constantly changing to slow the spread of COVID, parents are charged with adjusting their kid’s schedules on the fly, which is not always easy when juggling their needs from two separate households.
There is no doubt the arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S. and its effect on everything from shopping for essential goods like groceries and medications to turning your home into an office and a school changed your day-to-day life.
If that weren’t jarring enough, you had to figure out how to maintain your custody agreement while potentially exposing your children — and your home — to the virus by allowing the kids to come and go in uncontrollable settings.
You and your ex-spouse have probably had this conversation when the pandemic led to a mandated stay-at-home order in California.
Now, the holidays are here.
The matter is not simply how we successfully share our children, but how do we safely split their time between two or more households during the holidays with a health crisis looming?
Like most things divorce-related, communication will be the key to getting through 2020.
First: Outline Each Parent’s Safety Expectations
By now, you and your spouse are probably aware of each other’s virus-related requirements. Whether you have voiced your opinion about your kids visiting friends while they are with their other parent or have heard the other parent talk about their day-to-day expectations, the pain points you share will be amplified over the holidays.
You must have a conversation with the other parent about their holiday plans. Whether they have the kids for half the day, the whole day, or several days, you must agree on the plan.
Will they be visiting other family members? How many houses will they visit? Is everyone healthy enough to be included on these trips?
Although it is a very stressful time, and the Centers for Disease Control has all but demanded everyone stay in their homes with their immediate families — for the holidays, you cannot control how your kids spend their time outside of your home. However, you can understand where they are going, why it is important, and what steps they are taking to remain safe while they are there.
Remain positive about your kids’ holiday plans with their co-parent and provide each child with the resources they need to remain safe, like washing their hands often and tips on social distancing. They, too, have been living in the COVID-era, so, depending on their ages, they understand the requirements. Positive reinforcement will go much further than scare tactics.
Next: Do Not Request a Lot of Changes to the Existing/Agreed Upon Holiday Schedule
This may be difficult, as this year is not holiday business as usual.
However, if it is your ex-spouse’s holiday, and you have a set schedule, stick to it.
Try not to request changes to the schedule unless it is necessary.
Keep in mind, this year has been trying for everyone, including your kids.
They would probably prefer some type of normalcy during the holidays — even if that means maintaining their current schedule to stay home or observe the existing custody agreement.
Conversely, if your co-parent requests a change to the holiday schedule, consider the big picture of the request.
You never know when you may need to make a similar request, and if they are asking because someone in their home may have been exposed to the coronavirus, it is an obvious yes.
Communication and respect are key to happy holidays, even during a pandemic.
Finally: Do Not Involve the Kids
Holiday schedule negotiations are not the time to ask your children to choose where they want to be for each event.
Co-parenting requires you and your ex-spouse to make decisions without involving the children, so they do not feel pressured to choose a side.
Instead, focus on keeping your household safe while allowing your children to enjoy the holidays with both sides of their families, even when it involves small gatherings and online visits.
As 2020 winds down, and hopefully brings better days with the New Year, you may have questions about your existing custody agreement and how you can modify it based on everything you have learned during the pandemic.
Contact Us Now
Contact our San Bernardino County Certified Family Law Specialist at the Law Office of Joyce Holcomb by calling (909) 889-7111 today to discuss how modifying your existing agreements may provide a boost to your and the kids’ quality of life in 2021.