“How can I remain an active parent if my custody time has been limited by the COVID-19 pandemic?”
I do not practice law in your state. Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of your state, but I can provide you with general tips for this sort of issue.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting parents in different ways. One area of particular concern (and anxiety) relates to parents being denied time with their children. This may be because a court has issued an order curtailing custody during the pandemic, because it has become impossible for the custody exchange to take place given travel or financial restrictions, or because one parent simply is refusing to comply with the current order based on concerns of infection or potential infection by the other parent.
Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that you still can have meaningful contact with your child.
While contact is essential because children need emotional support from both parents, it also is important if you have a pending custody case or intend to seek custody in a court case in the future. You have the ability not only to be an involved parent, but to help shape the court’s view of your conduct during this unprecedented time.
While your access to the court may be curtailed temporarily, when you are able to go to court, you will want to demonstrate your conduct was in your children’s best interest despite the lack of physical presence.
Below is a list of suggestions that will not only help you stay connected to your children, but may help your custody case in the future by showcasing your creative and constructive involvement in their lives.
Maintain daily contact with your children
There are many ways to stay in touch with your children while they are with the other parent. The most obvious way is through video chats, text messages, and phone calls. Consider scheduling a recurring call or video chat with your child either daily or every other day or at least with some level of regularity. This way, you limit having to coordinate with the other parent and your child has consistency in his or her daily schedule.
During this time, in addition to talking with your child, consider playing a game, reading a book, listening to music, telling or writing jokes, or drawing together. Obviously, your children’s age will dictate the books or materials you will want to use, but the important thing is to come up with different ways to engage and connect.
Also, consider sending your child snail mail and encouraging writing letters back and forth. Children enjoy receiving mail, and this activity can create deep memories and connections.
You also can send photos, magazine or newspaper clippings, or other mementos that will have a special meaning to your child. Take a quick photo of what you send your child in the mail, so you have a copy for yourself.
Be involved with remote learning
All around the country, children remotely are attending school. Schools quickly are putting together virtual learning programs, but parental involvement still is required.
Even though the instructional learning may not be happening at your house, make sure you are receiving the materials from the school, so that you can discuss aspects of the schooling with your child or help with assignments. Your daily or frequent contact with your child can be used to help with school work. The more familiar you are with the virtual learning program, the better you can assist your child on topics he or she is learning about.
Additionally, you can contact your child’s teacher to find out ways that you can help with his or her schooling. There may be an opportunity to work with your child on his or her reading or math, for example, during your video chats.
The more focused you can be in providing learning assistance to your child, the better you can demonstrate your caring nature and interest in parenting.
Maintain records of your contact with the other parent and children
It is important to keep a record of your communication with your children or efforts to do so by contacting the other parent. Any type of handwritten or typed-up log is fine.
For communications that take place over the phone, consider sending an email to yourself summarize the discussion as that will demonstrate a time-stamped record of your efforts. With these records, you do not need to rely on your memory to recount when you contacted the other parent or the topic of your correspondence. You should make yourself available to the other parent should they want to contact you, and you also should ask for updates on how your child or children are doing.
While it is incumbent on the parent with custody of the children to give you information, do not passively wait for information if it does not come.
Always communicate in a cordial manner to the other parent
Make sure that all correspondence with the other parent is cordial. Now, more than ever, you should consider the tone and content of these communications. With children home all day, they are more likely to be exposed to correspondence between parents. Additionally, children constantly are connected to phones, computers, and other devices and these devices may have a shared account with parents. This means that children inadvertently may see this communication.
Therefore, be mindful of what you say to the other parent. Furthermore, this correspondence may end up as evidence in a custody case and therefore, you want to be viewed in the best possible way.
While you may find yourself in a less than ideal situation when it comes to your custody time because of COVID-19, there are many things that you can do to connect with your children while setting yourself up for potential success in your custody case.
Despite obstacles, there are ways to maintain involvement with your children and simultaneously strengthen your position in a custody case when you are able to get into court.
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Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.