During a crisis such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, shared responsibility for parenting may seem overwhelming when you don’t have the information you need to make decisions. We’re here to help.
And even though the information provided here is not legal advice, it is based on common principles of family law and the current practice of Alberta Courts during COVID-19.
1. Be healthy.
Stay informed of recommendations and requirements of Alberta Public Health and Canada Public Health. Comply with all recommendations. Wash hands frequently. Wipe down surfaces regularly. Maintain physical distancing in public and set a positive example of good hygiene for your children.
2. Be mindful
Be honest with your children about the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude. Let children know things will eventually return to normal. Encourage children to ask questions and answer them at a level that is age appropriate.
3. Be compliant with court orders and custody agreements.
The courts expect orders to be followed. Failure to follow an order without consent from the other party will be viewed negatively if the matter does return to court in the future. Try not to change things if not necessary. If you want to change something, ensure the change is by agreement and in writing even if just in emails.
4. Be creative.
If things do need to change, be creative. If a child must be isolated in one home for a period of time, increase telephone, Facetime or Skype contact and let the child share time with the other parent this way by reading books or watching TV.
5. Be transparent.
Provide honest information to the other parent about suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus. Try to agree on the steps each of you will take to protect your child from exposure. Inform the other parent at once if your child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.
6. Be generous.
And, be reasonable. Offer make up time if a parent missed time due to requirements to self-isolate. Be generous with alternative plans if your child must self-isolate. The Court expects parents to be reasonable. Acting unreasonable now can affect how a Judge determines matters in the future.
7. Be understanding.
This is a stressful time for everyone. Stress can cause people to act differently. Give the other parent the benefit of the doubt and let them calm down and think matters over and then try to discuss the issues again.
Also understand this could become a time of much economic stress. While a payor parent should pay support, if incomes are decreasing the payor should still pay as much as they can, and the payee will hopefully be understanding and accommodate any changes in income and support. Hopefully this is temporary.
8. Establish good memories for your children.
Memories are stronger and last longer when made in stressful times. No doubt this current situation is going to build long lasting memories for your children. Do your best to ensure those memories are how much you did to make them feel safe and comfortable not how much fighting happened during the pandemic.