Co-parenting Post COVID
In Florida, co-parenting is referred to as parental timesharing. A couple who has natural or adopted minor children (children from birth to age l8 or a child who cannot support themselves for mental or physical reasons) and decides to divorce, separate from a cohabitation relationship, or hasn’t lived together, will be required by Family Law Courts to share the care and nurturing of their children. Florida Family Law is built around the motto “in the best interests of the child.” As research has shown children, develop better with the influence of both parents, and parental timesharing has resulted. A parenting plan will be drawn up by the parents during mediation (to be reviewed by a judge) or by a judge if the case goes to court.
The parenting plan, for example, will lay out how often and where the child will stay with each parent overnight and on which holidays. There will be a number of issues addressed in a parenting plan, including how a child will be transferred from one home to another, who will care for the child if a parent is temporarily unable to, what means of communication will be used for parents, and parent and child to keep in touch, how will expenses for such things as extracurricular activities and clothing be divided, and how will distance traveling be handled. Additionally, co-parenting includes the requirement that major decisions in the areas of medical, discipline, education, and religion be discussed and decided on by both parents.
As can be imagined, all of the above, though sounding good, is not easy given human nature and the often emotional strain of a broken relationship. Many couples, however, have tried to make sharing the care and nurturing of their minor children work smoothly by following their parenting plan. Then along comes COVID 19. There have, and still are, several issues couples have needed to face as families were quarantined, parent’s lost jobs or had to work out of their home, schools closed requiring full-time, at-home child care, child care centers closed, and increased mental and physical health issues resulted due to social isolation and economic loss.
Hopefully, COVID will come to a close or at least settle down to where a somewhat “as we knew it” life can return. Even if this does happen, there will likely be changes to a couple’s parenting plan. Each case will be different, but some examples would be:
- Permanent job loss affects a parent’s ability to support a child and or to pay child support
- Parent has to move to get work or has different working hours so overnights must change.
- Parent has developed on-going mental or emotional problems affecting his or her ability to parent satisfactorily.
- Parents can’t agree on how a child should be schooled—in-home or at school.
- Loss of a car or home due to income loss
- Increase of expenses for the child
- Parent’s can’t agree if the child should receive the COVID vaccine when it is available.
- Lost visitation rights need to be made up, and parents can’t agree on how this should take place.
One of the keys to having a parenting play work out is that parents stay flexible with the requirements of the plan. However, any changes made either verbally or in writing are only temporary and will not permanently change the parenting play. The only way to legally change a parenting plan order is to return to mediation or court. A judge must sign a new order containing your revised parenting plan. If you live in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, or Hillsborough County is Florida or New York or Washington DC; you can contact Family Law Attorney Grant Gisondo for help in modifying your parenting plan. He has over a decade of successful experience and offers a free, initial, in-office consultation. His office hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday and 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM on Saturdays for new clients. To make an appointment, call (561) 530-4568.