Your inbox and social media accounts are probably overflowing with updates and advices about the social, health and economic consequences known and anticipated from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there is a great deal of uncertainty and updates are being provided daily, there are some things that separated parents can do to help ease the uncertainty for the children involved, particularly when it comes to making sure that both parents are on the same page, to the extent that is possible.
While it may not be appropriate for everyone, to the extent that you and your former partner can be consistent in the messages that you impart to the children about the current situation and answering their questions and supporting them with the same answers in each household. The research shows that children are far more likely to cope in difficult situations where each of the persons that they are attached to can make them feel safe and reassured.
Being a parent is never easy at the best of times and in times of high stress it can be difficult to see things from the other parent’s perspective. My best advice is to try and be accommodating and practical and do not wait for problems to arise before communicating with your former spouse. To the extent that you can, reach out to the other parent and work out what approach you are going to take on certain issues if they arise can only be a good thing. Anticipate the events and changes that you and the children may need to face in coming weeks or months for the children and open the conversation.
Most parenting orders or parenting plans will include a term which requires one parent to inform the other in the event of an illness or health condition concerning the children. Subject to what the terms are about the means of communication (text message, email or phone), if a child becomes unwell or medically diagnosed with the virus then promptly raise it with the other parent.
If your order or plan provides for equal shared parental responsibility, including in respect of long-term decision making for children’s health then that is also a matter that you may want to talk to the other parent about early in case the children become sick and have to be hospitalised. Any elective decisions for treatment or managing the condition while in hospital may need to be managed carefully.
If an agreement cannot be promptly reached and there is no easy way to resolve the difficulty then it may be necessary to urgently engage in some kind of family dispute resolution. Our offices are remaining open and will do anything we can to assist you to negotiate with your former partner or their lawyer if the need arises.
Our family lawyers in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Ipswich and North Lakes remain available during this time and will do our very best to ensure that your matter can be progressed but in a way which is consistent with the current guidelines and recommendations issued by the relevant health authorities. We will continue to utilise phone, email, Skype, videoconferencing to ensure that your matter can progress in a timely and efficient manner and help you seek reassurance around the best course for you and your family.