This pandemic has meant so many people are at home or out of work, after never having been out of work in their adult lives. While others (especially health care workers) have seen their work steadily increase, and the indication is that it is just going to get worse for a while.
Many of our clients are facing a situation that they have never in their wildest imagination considered. Many head single-parent households, with varying degrees of difficulty in their co-parenting relationship with the other parent, and now they have their children at home. Meanwhile, they still have to work, and maintaining that work is now more important than ever for many. So the obvious question is:-
How do I cope?
Should I be relying more on the other parent during the course of this pandemic?
While it may seem obvious that the other parent should be the go-to for filling in the gaps, this can raise a whole host of concerns.
Please note this discussion does not apply to situations where there has been a significant history of violence in the relationship. Those situations are different and must be considered very carefully based on individual circumstances.
But assuming there is “just” difficulty in the co-parenting relationship, some concerns are:
This is a very real and pressing concern in our current climate of social distancing. Our older generation needs protection, and so it probably isn’t advisable for grandparents to be caring for your children. We aren’t supposed to be visiting friends and family, and so other family members or good friends might not be appropriate. So if you don’t have anyone else in your household, then the other parent might be your only option if you want/need to continue working.
This is indeed a possibility. All parenting arrangements, whether informal, agreed by way of a Parenting Plan, or formalised by Court order (made by consent or after a hearing), are subject to change as circumstances change. Circumstances with children inevitably change as they get older, which is why many Parenting Plans and consent Court orders are drafted with changes as the children get older. But no one saw this particular type of change coming, and you will not find a set of orders between two parents which covers what happens in the event of a pandemic!
It is likely that this current crisis will see things change on an ongoing basis in many, many ways. That applies for parenting arrangements too. Although some people, of course, will simply return to “business as normal” once this passes.
There are almost limitless “what ifs” in this question.
If your children are older and decide they like it better at their other parent’s they may resist returning to the previous arrangement.
If you have had concerns about the capacity of the other parent to step up and take on a full day to day responsibility as a parent, then you might find that in these testing times, the other parent really proves him/herself. Then you might actually want to work out a different arrangement where more of the load is shared.
We strongly advise you to speak to us before committing to a new arrangement so that we can assess your particular circumstances and answer some of the “what ifs” based on your individual circumstances.
Some people have genuine concerns the other parent will exploit the current situation and retain the children in their care. If that happens, do not delay and speak to us immediately. There are various steps that might be available to you such as a recovery application.
As we are finding out as a society in general at the moment, prevention is better than a cure. And so taking preventative steps before you make significant changes is incredibly important. What is appropriate for you will depend on your individual circumstances because no two families and their circumstances are the same. There are various possibilities that may be open to you if you need to make changes and are worried about a “difficult” co-parent. One might be to put a Parenting Plan in place specifically for this current pandemic based period.