How to Handle Custody if You and Your Ex Have Different Coronavirus Safety Rules?

The coronavirus pandemic has brought unique challenges to divorced and separated parents, especially when it comes to staying safe. Families living under one roof are likely to have a unified approach to social distancing and coronavirus safety rules. But when parents have two separate households, each home may have its own perspective on what constitutes safe behavior–and these views may conflict.

The law allows parents who share custody of their children to dictate the terms of their day-to-day behavior. Each parent can decide what the kids will eat in their home, when they’ll do their homework, and how much television they can watch. Each parent also has the legal right to decide how to handle coronavirus safety, as long as it does not conflict with your state’s laws.
So, what to do?

Talk it Out

If your co-parent has a different approach to coronavirus safety and you’re concerned that they’re exposing the children–and the rest of the family–to a heightened risk of contracting the virus, the first thing to do is open a dialogue with them. Approach the subject calmly and with the perspective that you both love and are concerned for the welfare of your children.
Consider sending an email explaining your viewpoint. Avoid focusing on what you believe they’re doing wrong, but instead, ask to come up with a set of mutually agreeable safety rules that err on the side of caution. If you believe it will be useful, point to objective safety guidelines, such as those suggested by the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and discuss the steps you’re taking to minimize your and the children’s exposure to the virus.

Your ex may not respond the way you hope to this conversation, but a calm approach may open the door to discussion.

Check Your Ego

As you discuss the issue with your ex, make sure that your ego and past disagreements don’t stand in the way of a reasonable compromise. Take a step back from the situation and examine whether your former spouse’s suggestions or objections are fair based on the current information available about the virus. Believe it or not, they may raise valid points.

Get Mediation

If your discussion is at a standstill and the differences in your approaches are extreme, consider hiring a mediator to help reach a solution. A mediator is a neutral third party trained to resolve differences and help each party see each other’s perspective. With outside help, you may be able to establish a set of safety guidelines that may not be perfect but that you both can accept.

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