Pandemic-Proof Your Parenting Time Plan
If you are divorced with minor children, you probably struggled over the last two years. Many parenting plans did not make accommodations for kids in virtual school, daycare facilities closing, and all activities being canceled. We’re too busy to plan for the unexpected, though we know it’s what we should do. If you have a child custody order, you should have a parenting time plan. It may be very detailed and explicit about where your child is supposed to be and when. Even under ideal circumstances, this may be difficult to pull off. What will happen if there’s another pandemic?
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
A study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the probability of a pandemic with COVID-19-like impact is about 2% in any year. This means a person born in 2000 had about a 38% chance of experiencing one.
Researchers found significant pandemics are relatively likely, and the risks of intense disease outbreaks are rapidly growing. Due to the increasing rate at which novel pathogens have infected mass numbers of human populations in the last 50 years, the study estimates that the probability of new disease outbreaks will probably increase three-fold in the next few decades.
Planning for the Next Pandemic
Whether another pandemic occurs or a natural or manmade disaster strikes, it’s a good idea to have a Plan B. Your parenting time plan would be its basis, a launchpad to deal with potential long-term disruptions to your lives.
The parents should create an agreement describing how to meet their child’s needs and the role and steps each parent will play during this hopefully short-lived, future public health emergency:
- What’s the best way to split the child’s time between each parent in light of health concerns, school cancellations, and work disruptions?
- What would be a good schedule for home/remote schooling, so a child’s time spent on learning is separate from agreed-upon parenting time?
- How should child exchange rules work given possible pandemic restrictions, including quarantines and travel advisories?
- How should you handle missed holidays or planned parenting time due to illness or travel restrictions? Would Zoom calls count as parenting time?
- What should be the rules for meeting or engaging with people outside your immediate households? Should you socially distance, wear masks, and obey government guidelines? Parents can have very different viewpoints on the need for precautions. If one parent ignores them and allows the child to do the same, and the child becomes infected, it could make a bad relationship with a parent strict about safety measures much worse.
- What will be your approach to amending this agreement as circumstances change? The next pandemic may be very unlike what we saw with COVID-19. The virus may spread differently, and government mandates may be looser or stricter than in the past. Although planning is important, so is the ability to adapt as the circumstances change.
The next pandemic could start next week or five years from now. Don’t let that uncertainty make you less motivated to get this done. You have a busy life, but you don’t want to put this off until employers are shutting down, schools are closing, and the governor announces everyone should stay home.
If you have any questions about putting this plan together or you’re facing pushback from the other parent, contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. to see how we can help.