coParenting through COVID-19: Assessment and Safety Planning

As parents, we are dealing with a scale of issues that none of us have dealt with before. It is a difficult and scary time for all of us but especially for our kids. Here at coParenter, our team of mediators are helping you work through these very challenging issues. We are here to support […]

Hon. Sherrill Ellsworth (RET)
Judge Ellsworth was one of the court's most respected and admired bench officers. She retired from the bench to focus on having a greater impact on today’s families by making our courts more accessible, effective, and efficient.

As parents, we are dealing with a scale of issues that none of us have dealt with before. It is a difficult and scary time for all of us but especially for our kids. Here at coParenter, our team of mediators are helping you work through these very challenging issues. We are here to support you through this very difficult time while you balance safety, coparenting, your childrens’ anxiety, and your own parental stress. This article should be a good starting place to help you make the best choices for you and your children.

Here are some of the questions our mediators are seeing daily:

  • Our state has declared ‘Shelter at Home’, the Courts are not open and my coParent has the children even though we share the children 50/50. What should I do? 
  • My coParent won’t communicate with me and is withholding the children. 
  • My children are with my coParent who only gets the children every other weekend. What do I do? 
  • My coParent is an ICU nurse and I do not want her/him around the children. 
  • My coParent’s new partner just flew back from Europe; what should I do?

There is almost never a one size fits all answer but we want to give you some guidelines and best practices on how to deal with these very difficult issues.

Clear communication is the first order of business. No matter the level of conflict in your relationship, we at coParenter are urging everyone to discuss coParenting Safety Planning for yourselves and your children. If there is ever a time to cut your coParent a break in the interests of your kids, dealing with the fall-out from the Coronavirus is it. If you and your coParent can’t agree on where the children should Shelter at Home or how to manage risk, safety, and compliance with governmental protocols while coParenting during the time of COVID-19 then you are adding a layer of anxiety and stress to your family units. This is a time for collaborating, not conflict. This is a time for EXTREME PATIENCE and FLEXIBILITY; not posturing, putting your child in peril or game playing.


Your Safety Plan should begin by Assessment of your unique situation. That Assessment should be well informed and use respectful, business-like and civil communication techniques. A COVID 19 coParenting Assessment and can be done over the app so you have a clear record of it. If you use the app you may elect to use a professional when you hit a bump in the road. The bottom line is to think less about pre-COVID-19 relationships, arguments, litigation, and look forward to the primary issue of Safety Planning and Assessment.  Your Safety Assessment should answer the following questions:

  1. Where are the children now?
  2. What are the safety protocols that will be instituted in both homes? (consistency and stability are key)
  3. Are either parent an essential worker, healthcare provider or first-responder?
  4. Are there any immunocompromised, high-risk, or persons over the age of 60 in either of the households?
  5. Is one household safer for the kids in that they will have less risk of sharing or contracting the virus?
  6. Will you do safe child exchanges or choose to have the kids Shelter at Home at one parent’s house?
  7. If you do exchanges consider how far you live from each other. Exchanges may make more sense if you live closer together. 
  8. If you do exchanges what is your plan in order to maintain a safe distance from others during that exchange?
  9. If children Shelter at Home in one parent’s home, how will make-up days in the future be given to the other parent? 
  10. If children Shelter at Home in one parent’s home, what is the schedule for video conferencing, FaceTime, Marco Polo, group family phone calls and Skype type visits?
  11. If kids are going to continue to split times between homes, set up a consistent schedule that is stable at both residences. If not exchanging then consider a schedule that both parents have input into. The new schedule should include hygiene, chores, schoolwork, limiting screen time, entertainment, outdoor time and exercise. 

Once you have honestly discussed these questions you are ready to create a COVID-19 coParenting Safety Plan. You should consider writing out your plan as an agreement so that you can refer back to it as times become more stressful, circumstances change and to ensure accountability.


IMPORTANT REMINDER: PATIENCE AND FLEXIBILITY!!  If there was ever a time that you should practice patience and flexibility, it is now.  What you have done in the past may not be practical or even realistic. You and your coParent need to be teammates to help your kids through this stressful time. Adults are generally stressed about what is going on in the world; imagine what it’s like for a young child. Show them you are calm and cooperative with their other parent and they will model your behavior.

We at coParenter are committed to helping you through these difficult times. We have worked in the space of remote services for the past 4.5 years dedicating ourselves to helping you take control of your coParenting duties. It is a privilege to help navigate you through this ever-changing landscape. Let’s make a plan and get through this together.