We are living through an unprecedented time. Mecklenburg County announced yesterday that its residents and visitors are being ordered to stay at home beginning on March 26th at 8:00 am. Residents and visitors are ordered to stay at home unless they provide or work for an essential business, are involved in an essential activity such as going to the grocery store, or are engaged in an acceptable activity such as exercising outside with appropriate social distancing.
Where does this leave separated parents who co-parent their children? Recently, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) released guidelines for co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAML and AFCC came up with seven guidelines:
- Be Healthy;
- Be Mindful;
- Be Compliant (with court orders and custody agreements)
- Be Creative;
- Be Transparent
- Be Generous
- Be Understanding.
The third guideline – be compliant with court orders and custody agreements- is especially important. In most circumstances, your children have a right to spend time with both parents. Generally, if both parents live in Mecklenburg County or the surrounding areas and if the parents have been sharing custody and if everyone is healthy then we encourage parents to continue to share custody as they have been doing.
But what about the stay at home proclamation that Mecklenburg County is putting in place on March 26th at 8:00am? Upon careful review of the proclamation, “Travel required by law enforcement or court order, including to transport children pursuant to a custody agreement,” is allowed. Therefore, parents can lawfully exchange their children as they have been doing prior to the proclamation.
In this time of uncertainty, it is even more important for parents to try to work together for the benefit of their children. Everyone is under stress, worried about their family’s health and financial welfare. During this time, it is understandable that people will struggle to stay calm and positive. Children will undoubtedly pick up on their parents’ stress. Make sure that you are doing everything you can to lessen the stress on your children by making every possible attempt to work with your children’s other parent.