The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) is an interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through resolution of family conflict. The AFCC has a chapter in Alberta.

The AFCC and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) recently published 7 guidelines for parents who are separated or divorced and are co-parenting children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have summarized the AFCC and AAML recommendations here:

1. Be Healthy

Comply with recommended health guidelines and model good behavior for your children. Be informed and stay in touch with reliable media sources.

2. Be Mindful

Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal in time. Avoid careless comments in front of the children. Encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer truthfully at an age-appropriate level.

3. Be Compliant with Court Orders and Agreements

Continue following Court Orders and Agreements to the greatest extent possible. Custody agreements and Court Orders exist to prevent endless haggling over the details of timesharing. Try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances.

4. Be Creative

We can expect change when schools are closed, people are being advised not to fly, some public places are closed, and parents may be experiencing variations in typical work schedules. Plans may need to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who may not be able to see the children through shared books, movies, games, FaceTime or Skype.

5. Be Transparent

Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, and try to agree on what steps each parent will take to protect the child from exposure. Advise the other parent if the child is exhibiting any symptoms of the virus.

6. Be Generous

Try to provide makeup time to a parent who has missed out. Judges will expect reasonable accommodations between parents when they can be made and will take seriously concerns raised about parents who are inflexible in these highly unusual circumstances.

7. Be Understanding

Many parents will experience economic hardship – both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. Parents paying child support who may be experiencing lost earnings should still try to provide child support, even if it cannot be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.

A PDF of the complete guidelines titled “Guidelines for Parents: AAML and AFCC Joint Statement” is available on the AFCC website. We thank the AFCC and the AAML for putting this resource together.

The AAML and AFCC note that adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. It’s important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep their child safe.

The lawyers at Latitude Family Law remain available to assist our clients in navigating these uncertain times. Although Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench and Provincial Courts have temporarily suspended sittings of non-emergency, non-urgent matters, we can continue to assist families by answering questions and providing advice, facilitating conference calls to address any matters of concern for our clients and by continuing our negotiation and conflict-resolution efforts by e-mail, phone, and video-conference. We take the health and safety of our clients, our staff, our colleagues, and our families very seriously and we hope everyone is taking good care while we all work together to contain this virus.