For many people who have been through a divorce involving children and are co-parenting, they are well aware of the term “best interest of the child”. Like many legal terms, “best interest of the child” leaves much room for interpretation and differences of opinion. In fact, during my career, a large number of my cases have involved parents’ differences of opinion as to what is in the best interest of children related to a whole host of issues. Covid-19 has made the consideration of the child’s best interest significantly more challenging, often leaving parents to choose from a menu of unappealing options.
This hits close to home because it happened to my family. I myself have successfully worked a shared parenting plan for over a decade. For the most part, and considering the hostility and stubbornness I have witnessed in my clients’ cases throughout my legal career, my eldest son’s mother and I have had a sterling co-parenting relationship. Covid-19 hasn’t changed our solid parenting relationship, nor the genuine respect upon which it is based; however, the pandemic has presented certain impossible choices, causing my family to manage risk in a way I frankly never expected. After some thought, I figured “if this is happening to my rock solid parenting plan, other folks must be challenged and frustrated.”
From the beginning, our shared parenting plan has been 50/50 companionship with our son, without the customary drama co-parents often face. In fact, we encourage each other’s time with him. By all accounts, our son has thrived. He is a straight-A student. He is kind, patient, and everything you could ask for in an older brother for siblings. In fact, I can’t remember when he was actually “in trouble.” He also is a teenager and a multisport athlete. Because my eldest son is taking risks playing sports, and his mother and I disagree on this risky behavior, my wife and I have had to directly face the question of exposing us and our younger children to Covid-19. Thus far, we have personally decided against taking the risk.
The end result is several months of video chats with my son, the loss of parenting time, and frankly…sadness. We miss him. His siblings miss him. However, our society and our government allow my son to take sports-related risks, he wants to do it, and his mother willingly facilitates. To resist would mean upsetting a stable co-parenting situation and risking damage to my relationship with my son, to protect against a threat that may never even come to pass. While it is possible to wear masks and socially distance within your home, it is not practical or even workable in most loving homes with multiple children. So, while in a perfect world, both co-parents would agree on what’s best for everyone and mutually restrict risky behavior, it is not a perfect world and life often presents no good choices.
I wanted to share this story, honestly to purge the pit in my stomach for a bit, and to hopefully provide comfort to other co-parents struggling with this issue, because it’s not easy for anyone.
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