Communication During COVID-19
We discuss how to communicate with your co-parent, based on the best practices shared by a divorce lawyer.
Communicating with Your Co-Parent During COVID-19, According to a Divorce Lawyer
Liz Billies, from The Divorce Lawyer Life, shared her professional opinion on how to talk to your co-parent about following a custody order during COVID-19.
As we discussed in ‘Should I Exchange Custody with my Co-Parent During COVID-19?’, in places that have determined custody exchanges are necessary travel, you could be putting yourself in contempt of your custody by withholding your child if there is no other reason. If there are additional factors to consider, you need to speak to your lawyer and to your co-parent to figure out the best possible solution to keep your children safe and healthy.
Follow Best Practices for Communicating
Before calling your attorney or deciding to singlehandedly change the custody schedule, bring up your concerns directly with your co-parent. According to Billies, the first question from any family law professional will be whether you communicated your objections with your co-parent. Having the conversation through Talking Parents will allow you to have evidence on your Messaging or Calling Record that the conversation took place.
Give your co-parent a chance to respond and to understand your thoughts. Keeping an open line of communication between the two of you during this time is important.
If your co-parent does not respond, chooses to withhold the children, or takes any other actions with which you disagree, it is time to contact a family law professional.
Billies says she recently had to help a client in such a situation. Her client had first tried to address a few social distancing issues with the co-parent. The co-parent disagreed with the client’s opinion and kept up the unwanted behavior. So, Billies wrote him a letter advising him of her objections.
Sometimes a letter on legal letterhead will do the trick, particularly if they have a lawyer as well who they will have to pay to read such a letter. And, even if the letter doesn't cause him or her to see the light, official documentation of the violation could be helpful in a future custody hearing.
Can I Still Go to Court?
In some places, judges are doing telephone conferences for emergency custody or cases when co-parents can not find any possible solutions without professional assistance. However, these teleconferences are not considered hearings, and judges cannot issue orders without a hearing.
In the case of emergency custody, contacting a lawyer and filing something with the court is your only recourse, even if the court does not respond because you will have documented evidence of the action.
Recommendations from a Divorce Attorney
Billies has provided Talking Parents with a list of her top recommendations for co-parents and following your custody order, these recommendations include:
- Follow your custody order as much as possible.
- If you believe that your co-parent is not following social distancing guidelines, communicate your concerns with them first before filing something with the court.
- If your co-parent is withholding your child from you, contact an attorney to discuss your situations before filing it with the court.
- If your co-parent works in the medical field or is considered an essential worker, you are still expected to follow your custody order unless you can prove that they are not following protocol regarding exposure to COVID-19.
- If you or your co-parent can’t have custody of your children, work together and make-up time after health recommendations have relaxed.
- Set up regular calls so that children can maintain contact even if they can’t see one parent as regularly.
Billies’ most important recommendation is to be patient and flexible with your co-parent to reduce stress on your children.
Remember that Talking Parents has a Free version of our service available to access on our website as well as a 30-day trial for our Standard plan.