COVID-19 & Co-parenting: How to handle joint custody amid COVID-19 lockdown?

There is insufficient clarity regarding co-parenting guidelines amid lockdown but many family lawyers across the world are advising not to move their children from one parent to another. This is for the benefit of the child and parent to reduce any exposure to possible infection.


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Preetika Parashuraman

Following the lockdown, the South African and British Government have eased regulations to aid separated families but it is still unclear in many other nations including India. However, it is highly recommended to not move children from one parent’s house to another to avoid the contraction of the virus.

COVID-19 lockdown has impacted many families in different ways. Uncertainty of the extent of the lockdown has created anxiety for separated parents who share custody of their child or children. In case the parent is a first responder, there may be fear handing over the responsibility of your child or children during a pandemic. Experts suggest co-parents be flexible about child custody arrangements and child support during a pandemic. It is all about coming to an agreement with your former partner, keeping in mind the child’s safety and interest at utmost importance.

Be open and truthful

Children are exposed to a flood of misinformation through social media or interaction with peer groups. Both parties must understand the gravity of the pandemic and convey it to the children without generating panic. If the co-parent is a first responder or not, it is fundamental to follow hand hygiene and safe distancing before coming in contact with children.

Fear of missing out?

While one parent is taking care of the children, the other may grow apprehensive. It is crucial to encourage children to stay in touch with the other parent via Facetime or Skype. Parents should keep personal grudges aside during such grave situations and not cloud communication to settle personal scores.

Communicate with your former partner

If you feel like the symptoms have grown on you or your child, it is best to inform your former partner immediately. If communication between former partners is hazy, seek the help of a third person, say a relative or friend.

The lockdown is not an excuse

It is easy to presume an incompetent partner to display similar characteristics as a parent. It is extremely unjust to use the lockdown to one’s advantage and separate children from the other parent. This may result in resentment for all the time lost with a parent. However, if your former partner is abusive or under substance abuse, one can seek legal and psychiatric advice.

WHO recommendations

Post-divorce, co-parents may have different styles of parenting. If a child is allowed to play games till late at night in one house, it may not be allowed in another house. It may be stressful to balance work from home and supervision of the children. The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommends parents to make a flexible yet consistent schedule with structured activities, with the involvement of their children. When involved, they are more driven to follow it. Children may be unfiltered while expressing annoyance and boredom, resulting in anger. WHO recommends parents to pause and reflect instead of passing anger to the kids.

“Compassion breeds compassion”

Once the lockdown is lifted, be considerate regarding the amount of time lost for the other parent with the children. You should be prepared to allow your former partner to exercise "make-up" time with the children. It is unfathomable for a parent to stay apart from their children, especially during a pandemic. Open-mindedness will go a long way at such times of uncertainty.

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