“It’s Been Really Hard:” How COVID-19 Has Complicated Co-Parenting
Kenya Moore recently made headlines after revealing she and her toddler daughter are self-isolating without her husband Marc Daly. Throughout the estranged couple’s brief courtship and marriage, they maintained primary residences in different states, with Moore in Georgia and Daly in New York — a region severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While spending a substantial amount of time apart might be the norm for this family, we imagine that travel restrictions and looming concerns about coming in contact with those already infected with the virus is keeping this family separated during a time when they would probably prefer to be together. No parent wants to be apart from their child in the midst of a national crisis. Sadly, this is a common issue that is faced by those who are parenting from separate households.
According to a recent report by Hollywood Life, a travel ban issued in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is also keeping Chris Brown apart from his newborn son, Aeoko. In January, the infant traveled to Germany with his mother, Ammika Harris, to visit her mother, and the two have remained there since the United States issued a travel ban on March 13 and the EU closed its borders on March 18.
“This is not easy on Chris because right now he doesn’t know exactly when he’s going to be able to see his son again,” a source told the outlet. “First there was the US travel ban and now the EU has fully closed their borders so he can’t go there and visit for at least a month. It’s rough.”
To cope, the parents, whose relationship is on-again, off-again, have been using technology to stay connected. “He Facetimes with Ammika and he gets to see Aeko that way. And she sends him videos and pictures all day,” the source shared. Of course, video chatting is “not the same as getting to hold [Aeko],” the source aadded, but the pair has been trying to make the best of a challenging situation. And they’re not alone.
Co-parenting can be tricky under normal circumstances, but doing so in the midst of a global pandemic has made parenting from two households all the more challenging. In addition to travel bans keeping families apart, co-parents are faced with the decision of whether or not to maintain normal visitation schedules or make modifications. And in some cases, one parent chooses to make modifications without the consent of their co-parent.
“It’s a sensitive issue because we all want to be aware of the health issues that are currently going on across the world,” said Gary Brown, a New York father who was recently denied visitation by his son’s custodial parent due to worries about COVID-19. “We want the best for our children. I definitely want the best for my son. I definitely understand why; however, as fathers or even mothers who are not the custodial parent, we have rights.”
For those who might be in similar situations, Brown encourages noncustodial parents to try their best to maintain a level head and follow protocol.
“Please do not lose your cool,” Brown advised parents who are denied access to their kids when they pick them up for regularly scheduled visitation. “Don’t try to knock down the door. Don’t throw a rock through the window. Don’t sit outside stalking, it’s just going to hurt you in the long run. Don’t send angry texts because that will never go over well in court because that’s going to leave a paper trail and it’s going to look like you’re aggressive.”
Considering many family courts have closed to the public in order to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus, following protocol can feel impossible and overwhelming, but there are steps that can be taken to protect parental rights in the face of the pandemic.
“Go to your local police station and file a report. After you file that report, contact your local family court,” said Brown in a video posted to Facebook. “After you’ve done that, submit a petition and explain what has happened. The courts will understand that the other parent is just trying to keep the child safe, but depending on your state, the courts will give makeup time.”
While some co-parents struggle with disagreements over visitation in the midst of this crisis, others are tasked with navigating the unfortunate reality of one parent being forced into quarantine after potential exposure to coronavirus.
“It’s been really hard. My daughter is really concerned about her father’s wellbeing and she wants to check on him, but neither of us wants to risk exposing her to the virus,” Kayla, a divorced New Jersey mother of two told MadameNoire.
“In the event of quarantine, the parent should forgo parenting time until the quarantine ends,” family attorney Cassie Ringlespaugh told RTV6. “Be reasonable in working together and flexible in providing makeup parenting time.”
And then, of course, there are economic consequences of COVID-19-related government orders. With the shutdown of nonessential businesses in various states, many families are feeling the pinch financially, and as a result, some parents are falling behind with child support payments and other financial contributions. In these times, it’s best for co-parents to put their heads and resources together and continue to work as a team, keeping the best interests of their children at the forefront of every decision.
“Now is the time to put aside petty differences and put the safety of kiddos and their families and the community first,” Ringlespaugh said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of issues come up and figure out what can be resolved between the parents and didn’t ever need to see a court.”