As COVID-19 continues to be a major health concern across Alberta, parents are becoming increasingly concerned about how to properly handle parenting arrangements while also complying with social distancing and isolation recommendations. Despite the current crisis, parenting arrangements remain in effect and you are obligated to comply with your court-ordered or agreed-upon parenting arrangements. Whether you have shared parenting or primary care of your children, the following recommendations can help you navigate your parenting arrangements in the safest way possible.
Plan Ahead and Avoid Panicking
- Assess your home and schedule to confirm you can still provide a safe environment for your children. If you have been travelling or work in a high-risk environment, consider whether you are required to isolate under federal and provincial law.
- Ensure your home and vehicle have been sanitized and that you have adequate cleaning supplies, food, and educational activities to entertain your children should you be required to isolate.
- If you have other children or adults living in your home, ensure they are all in good health and not immunocompromised. Should a resident be ill, isolated, or immunocompromised it may be in your Children’s best interests to forego your parenting time or if possible, segregate your home into multiple living areas to keep your children apart from these residents. Contact Alberta Health Services to confirm the appropriate response.
- Keep informed. Review the CDC and AHS recommendations regularly to ensure you are complying with all best practices.
Communicate Effectively with the Other Parent and Your Children
Whether your parenting arrangements are dictated by court order, separation agreement, or informal verbal agreement amongst you and the other parent – communication is key! Put aside any differences or feelings you have to communicate openly with the other parent in the best interests of your children. Ensure you are communicating the steps you are taking to ensure the children are safe during your parenting time. Advise the other parent if you or the children are experiencing any symptoms and inform them of any steps you are taking to confirm your diagnosis. Remember, this is a stressful time for everyone so communicate with patience and compassion. Agree on a schedule for the children to communicate with the other parent during your parenting time via phone, video chat or email if you don’t have one already. Agree upon how you will communicate with your children in an age-appropriate manner if they have questions or concerns about what is going on or why they have to change their routine. Stand with the other parent as a united front for your children and assure them that they are safe, loved, and will be taken care of by both parents.
Take Additional Precautions During Exchanges
To minimize the risk to the children or other residents in either home, we recommend parenting exchanges occur curbside. When you arrive at the agreed-upon location for the parenting exchange contact the other parent to advise them of your arrival and remain in your vehicle with the children until the other parent has arrived or is at the door of their residence. Ensure that it is safe for your children to exit your vehicle. If your children are old enough to walk to the other parent’s front door with their belongings, do not exit your vehicle. If your children are too young, bring them to the other parent’s door but do not enter the home or make any physical contact with the other parent.
If you are the parent receiving the children, ensure you and the children wash your hands upon their arrival and take steps to sanitize the children’s belongings as necessary.
It is recommended that you minimize the amount of the children’s belongings between households as possible.
Remember, the other parent is as concerned about your children’s well-being as you are. You need to comply with any court orders, separation agreements as so far as practically possible. Work cooperatively with the other parent so far as practicably possible if they require adjustments to parenting time or exchanges. If you are unable to comply with their requests, work together to come up with mutually-agreeable alternatives. The most important thing is to work as a team to ensure your children are safe and secure!
If you wish to obtain legal advice regarding your parenting arrangements, Roxanne Seekins, West Legal’s family law lawyer is currently booking telephone consultations and is happy to assist you through this challenging time.