Most people find co-parenting taxing under normal circumstances. Add in a global public health crisis, and odds are you may already be at your wits’ end trying to figure out what works best for both parties.
Your kids may not understand why they aren’t seeing Dad over the weekends anymore. The other parent could be pressuring you to follow court orders despite authorities’ advice to self-isolate and stay home. As tension mounts, what can one do to satisfy the demands of the other parent?
Open communication is key, for both parents and kids
Try as much to explain to your kids in simple terms the severity of the outbreak and how it will affect future visitations and custody rotation. Just like adults, kids get anxious too. UNICEF has a great guide on how to talk to your kids about the virus. If that doesn’t work, let them watch YouTube videos for a better understanding of what’s going on in the world.
You must also initiate effective communication with the other parent. Be transparent with each other regarding your travel plans and whereabouts, and consider the potential risk of infection to you and your kids. If you think you may have been exposed or begin to show any symptoms of the virus, inform the authorities and the other parent immediately. Withhold any rotation in visitation and access until the parent in question is in the clear.
Embrace the new normal
Your kids will be spending more time at home, so get creative with activities for your sanity and theirs. Make use of technology to ensure your kids receive the support and love they need if they are missing the other parent. Allow them to plan a Netflix watch party or play online games as a means to connect. Another method to compensate for the lack of physical presence is by video calls using WhatsApp, Skype, or Facetime.
Online lessons and working from home have now become the new normal. Take the opportunity to amend visitation schedules to limit exposure of your kids to the virus. To avoid future disputes, have any changes made in writing as proof of agreement by both parties. Depending on the situation, one parent may not be in the know in regards to your kids’ school lessons and activities. Update the non-custodial from time-to-time to avoid them from feeling left out.
If circumstances warrant your custody schedule needs to be maintained, both households must agree to take necessary precautions and practice good hygiene for the safety of your kids.
But how does one manage co-parenting during a Movement Control Order (MCO)?
At the time of writing, the MCO has been extended to April 28. Separated parents are navigating through uncharted waters, confused about how one should adhere to court-ordered visitations while going through the MCO.
According to the Department of Syariah Judiciary Malaysia, divorced parents should heed the Government’s advice to stay at home, for the safety and betterment of the country as well as their family.
Show some empathy
The MCO has taken a financial toll on retailers and small businesses. Some parents may experience pay cuts or lose their jobs entirely. If you are facing difficulties paying for your kids’ monthly maintenance, agree on a minimum amount that’ll work for both of you. It is a difficult time for many, but always make your kids’ welfare a priority.
Current visitation arrangements may no longer be applicable too. Assure the other parent and your kids that lost visitation hours and custody rotations will be made up for in the future when it is finally safe to do so. It may be a torturous wait, but rest assure it will be all worth it in the end.
We’re all in this, together
It can be stressful trying to find common ground since the crisis is disrupting our daily lives. Set aside your differences and focus on achieving a solution that works best for your kids. If things get overwhelming, reach out to your lawyer, or a person of authority who can help you decide.
Always refer to the guidelines set by our Ministry of Health and get updates from reputable sources. Difficult as it may be, try to remain civil as every little effort from everyone counts. If shuttling your children back and forth between two households imposes a health risk, decide on letting them stay put in one place until everything normalises may be the best option. It will be a struggle, but like everything else, this too shall pass.