Pandemic creates a new stress for separated parents

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The COVID-19 pandemic has separated parents wondering how they are going to abide by custody and parenting agreements as people are being asked to stay home.

Family law attorney Miles Mason says the first rule is always think of the child first.

“The overall goal of a parent should obviously be to keep the children safe,” Mason said. “If you have a strained relationship already, COVID-19 is not your friend.”

Guidelines for parents during the pandemic differ from state to state but there’s one thing they have in common.

“Many of the states that have issued COVID-19 family law guidelines have said clearly do not change parenting plans,” Mason said.

Custody agreements and family law can get complicated and emotional. For example, if one parent feels the other could put a child at risk if they leave home to be with a parent who has a high risk job.

“Most judges are going to agree,” Mason said. “There is no reason to put this child at risk for the next 30 days. Let’s just let the child go with the non-doctor, non-nurse parent, non-EMS ambulance driver parent,”

Mason says parents should not deviate from a court order and should instead negotiate. Parents should come up with something where they both benefit.

Medical professionals say parents should use common sense while navigating the pandemic.

Dr. Jason Yuan, an Associate Doctor of Pediatrics at UT Health Science Center and General Pediatrician at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, says parent should think about the children and ask questions.

“Who might be in the best position to create structure and schedule at school time that a child needs?” Yuan said.

He also said parents should consider the parents who are leaving thing house in high risk situations.

Mason says the pandemic is creating a new balancing act for parents and both sides can come to a simple solution.

“Number one, negotiate,” Mason said. “Keep an open dialogue, be honest, be nice, play nice with others.”

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