Remember the days before there was a COVID-19 virus? It’s hard to know if those days will return or if we have entered a new and unpredictable reality for the long haul. As society closes down, reopens, and faces more possible shutdowns, it is becoming clear that some of the ways we used to operate will have to undoubtedly change. How is your parenting plan holding up? Many families are finding that their well-intentioned parenting time agreements were not prepared for the shutdown of schools, e-learning, the closing of public places and other changes.
In the early days of the pandemic, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an order that parents should follow their current parenting time orders as written unless they otherwise agree. This was valuable direction, but for families without specific parenting plans, it was useless. It is common for parents to want to keep their parenting time schedule loose in order to allow parents to shift things at will to accommodate the needs of the children. While this is a worthwhile goal and represents good intentions, it is a better idea to have a back up schedule in your agreement in case the unpredictable happens. A completely loose parenting plan that does not contain a schedule that will occur if there is uncertainty or disagreement creates chaos in times such as the spring of 2020. This chaos can cause damage to co-parent relationships and can make children anxious and upset.
Now is a good time to review your parenting time agreement or court order and make sure that it can withstand the uncertainty of the times to come. If it requires supervised parenting time, what is the back-up plan if the professional supervision center is closed or the selected supervisor is sick or unwilling? If it requires travel to an out of state parent’s home, what happens if air travel is not necessary? If it anticipates parenting time in public places, what will you do if public places close down in a second wave of the current pandemic or for another reason?
Plan ahead and discuss your back-up plans with your co-parent. Consider modifying your agreement to include some contingency planning. You may have previously felt that you would never need to ask “what if”. Now it seems like there is a new reality all the time. Consider a short mediation with the mediators of Wanzer Edwards to make some amendments to avoid problems and confusion when things change again.