May 24, 2021
Child Custody and Covid-19
Custody of minor children in a divorce is often the most important topic for all concerned. In our mediation practice at the ALPHA CENTER for DIVORCE MEDIATION, we ask our couples to meet with a family/child therapist and create a parenting plan. It is the first step in our program; it is a cooperative process that builds in flexibility, but also strongly encourages a structured schedule.
When Covid-19 was upon us, suddenly those thoughtful schedules often centering around school and extra-curricular activities turned everything upside down. For separated families, the adjustment to virtual school was very stressful, obviously more traumatic if one or both parents lost their job due to Covid-19. I heard from some clients that the schools often made changes to the schedules and then would change them again, often on somewhat short notice. All the families needed extra help and needed to work even more cooperatively within the structure that was always changing.
As Covid-19 droned on, we began to adjust, more or less, to the new reality. Our parenting mediators started doing 2 schedules, one for Covid-19 restrictions and one without Covid-19 restrictions.
Depending on the custody, school and work schedules, there was often a need for a Covid test and then a quarantine waiting period before one parent could resume their regular custodial time with the children.
I think the biggest adjustment was for those divorced couples that had completely different attitudes about Covid and the restrictions we were all expected to undertake, to protect ourselves, our families, and our fellow citizens. Some parties wanted to adhere to the strictest protocols and others were OK with a much looser application of the protocols. For some couples this required careful negotiation and some even had to resort to litigation for a Judge to work out what would be the most prudent application of the legal standard which is always held to be “the best interest of the child.”