Unless one or both parents are impacted by COVID-19 or need to make changes to a co-parenting agreement, divorced parents are expected to follow co-parenting guidelines in existing agreements during the pandemic.
Co-Parenting Through COVID-19
According to Indiana courts, parents must follow the existing court-ordered parenting time and child custody agreements during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Indiana Supreme Court addressed issues regarding co-parenting during coronavirus in Order number 20S-MS-238 issued on March 31, 2020. This order clearly states that existing parenting time and child custody court-ordered agreements will remain in place during the coronavirus pandemic. Unless one or both parents test positive for COVID-19 or need to make important changes to the existing agreement, parents do not need to head back to court.
If parents need to modify an existing court order during the pandemic, they can file a written agreement with a family law attorney or the Indiana court. An informal written temporary agreement is allowed. Although Indiana courts are open, court business is limited to the highest priority matters due to COVID-19. Changes to an existing agreement are best handled through a family law attorney until courts reopen to the public.
Co-parenting through COVID-19 may be difficult since so many things in daily life have been impacted by the pandemic. Some parents have lost their jobs, while others are working from home. Schools are closed, so most children are learning through homeschooling, social media, or live-stream video platforms like Zoom and Vimeo. Many parents have taken on childcare tasks that were previously provided by schools, childcare centers, private nannies, and babysitters before the pandemic. Most parents are juggling a multitude of duties because of the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are urged to maintain a safe, healthy home environment for children. Divorced parents living in separate households can promote the best outcome for children by doing the following:
- Maintaining open communication between households
- Participating in phone calls, video chats, and emails
- Staying flexible with parenting time schedules
- Practicing proper social distancing measures
- Wearing masks in public places
- Staying current on COVID-19 updates and changes
For divorced parents and parents going through a divorce with a family law attorney, behaviors during the pandemic may impact future co-parenting agreements and pending divorce or child custody cases. Inappropriate behaviors that put children at risk may reflect badly on parenting skills and negatively impact an Indiana court judge’s decisions on divorce and child custody.