Written by Laura Wasser, Attorney & It's Over Easy C.E.O.
Wow, that’s a title I never thought I’d type. I have been doing this for a long time (practicing Family Law not writing articles) and I often think I have seen it all, but this COVID -19 situation is a whole new bowl of unknown for navigation both personally and professionally.
In California where I live, work and parent things are changing on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. Los Angeles Unified School District shut down as of last week. We transitioned our law office and our It’s Over Easy team meetings to remote last Friday afternoon, and all attorneys and staff are working from home. Governor Gavin Newsom initiated a ban on nightclubs, gyms and restaurants. There is a "Shelter-in-Place" order across the state, and the supermarkets are surreal scenes out of an apocalyptic zombie movie. Even Disneyland, the happiest place on earth, has closed its gates. That has only happened on three other occasions in the park’s 65 year history so – it’s something.*
With a pandemic comes adjustment. In all things, custody included. As I tell our clients and the couples who use It’s Over Easy, consideration, cooperation and communication (hereinafter the three C’s) are key when dealing with custody, even if you’ve had an amicable divorce or breakup from one’s ex. The three C’s are even more essential when co-parenting during a crisis.
The three C’s are imperative when you and your co-parent are making decisions about your children. Travel, timeshare transitions, whether to have playdates, how to enforce online curriculum, contact with older family members and even how to address what the state of emergency in the United States and around the globe are issues to be navigated delicately and with care. This is obviously easier if you have had an amicable divorce or breakup. If not, see whether you can be a better co-parent than you were a spouse or partner.
As I have written before for the It’s Over Easy Insights blog, I am incredibly blessed to co-parent with two considerate, cooperative and communicative men, who are the fathers of my two sons. We are experiencing this international crisis together as we continue to be amazed and horrified by what is transpiring.
My law firm has gone remote and so clients are calling in, emailing and videoconferencing with concerns;
“What happens if my ex won’t agree to the kids coming to my home? She says she doesn’t feel comfortable.”
“Are custody exchanges essentials under a shelter in place?”
“He has the news on 24/7 and I don’t want my kids constantly exposed to this nightmare, what can I do?”
“What is the best way for us to explain what is going on to our little ones, they have already had to deal with so much change.”
I’m on a text chain with a wonderful group of women friends who share political information, parenting tips and now pandemic news. As we move through this crisis, we laugh as we vote on whether to call children born as a result of this quarantine period “Quaranteens” or “Coronials” when they reach their teens in 2033-4. We’re also commiserating over the challenges of how to keep our own teens home and safe as they flex their immortality—and honestly, we are outraged by the lack of testing or accurate information available to us. Interestingly these friends on the text chain are all married. Not surprisingly, many of them have similar issues as their amicably divorced co-parent counterparts living under separate roofs;
“My husband is not taking this seriously. He is not helping with school work, house work or meal preparation.”
The important thing here is to maintain perspective--we are in this together and you are not alone, and though our support systems may have shifted, they still exist.
Clients of our firm and people who have recently used It’s Over Easy to navigate their own amicable divorce may be concerned that this “new normal” is creating additional uncertainty for their children, who are in the process of adjusting to life after divorce. My advice, as in all situations, is to put your children first. If you and your co-parent are living in separate homes, have some conversations about how each of you is socially distancing. What is the plan for maintaining safety and following the CDC’s and the World Health Organization’s recommendations when the children are with each of you? If there needs to be an adjustment to the schedule based on travel, compromised health or other factors, use the three C’s as you try to discuss and resolve with your co-parent reasonably and with consideration for each other.
If you feel your ex is not being child-centered or cooperative, do not panic. You be the best parent you can be. Keep a record of what is happening; your rational requests and proposals for resolution. It may be useful in future litigation regarding the children’s best interests. As an example:
“Hi, I am writing to ask that you please adhere to our custody agreement. You have told me that you are unwilling to send the kids back to my home because you are concerned about their health when they are with me. As I have told you, I have taken all precautions which have been recommended by the CDC and WHO. We both have our children’s health and welfare as our primary concern. Please let’s work together to keep their schedule consistent and their emotional state as healthy as their physical state..."
Remain calm and rational, and keep reciting the mantra, “This too, shall pass.” Make sure that you are a steady and reassuring influence for you kids and don’t be shy about asking for help and seeking support. Even in these uncertain times, humans appreciate and respect the need for community. We will pull through this.
About the Author Laura Wasser
Attorney Laura Allison Wasser is an author, entrepreneur, and Family Law expert with over 20 years of experience. Having handled a number of high-profile, high-net-worth divorce cases, Laura Wasser and her team have developed an intuitive and simple process for uncontested divorces available to everyone. Laura has represented celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Jimmy Iovine, Maria Shriver, and Stevie Wonder, but she maintains that divorce is the great equalizer — it terrifies everyone. She has made it her mission to change this by creating It’s Over Easy, which gives divorcing couples an accessible and affordable resource to dissolve their marriage in all 50 states. She is changing the face of divorce by providing education, tools and support for families going through the process and making them available to everyone.