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Ex-etiquette: Custody and coronavirus

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Family Living

Q. My ex and I share our child's time. We live around the corner from each other. My 88-year-old mother also lives with me and loves seeing our son on a regular basis, but with this coronavirus dictating our lives, my ex won't let my son come over on is regular visitation time. She says it is to protect my mother, but I think she just wants him with her and wants more child support. How do I get her to abide by the custody agreement?

A. This is not a time to fight over my time/your time. It's a time to come together and figure out the best course of action. I challenge all who share custody to put aside your own arguments and old hurts and look for ways to problem solve together in the name of your children -- and in your case, your mother. She's in the highest risk bracket of all. A child going back and forth could definitely be a way for her to contact the virus. So, you can package your ex's actions as an act of selfishness and allow it to fester and undermine your ability to communicate with her, or you can view it as an act of love and use it as the groundwork for better problem solving when this all blows over.

You even said it yourself, "With this coronavirus dictating our lives." This tells me that even though you are emotionally blaming the decision on your ex, you intellectually understand the decision may have been made unselfishly or is even out of her hands.

The best way to handle something like this is to sit down (virtually, of course) with your child's other parent and decide TOGETHER what is the proper course of action. What is truly best for OUR child? Put your heads together and figure it out. It's not forever. Things will eventually get back to normal and you will once again share your child as you did previously.

And, if the decision is for the child to stay put for a while, it is the custodial parent's responsibility to make the child available by phone or video chat. Establish a time to talk, to play games together -- and don't sabotage that time by planning other things that will interfere in your child's time with their other parent. I just had a four-way Messenger call with my kids because we all missed each other. We laughed more than we had in a long time.

Although this is a crisis, it is also an opportunity to demonstrate to our children how their country can come together, but more importantly, how their parents can come together -- their direct role models can put their issues aside because they love them and want them to feel safe. Our children are frightened. They can't go to school, they can't see their loved ones, they need their parents to stay calm and make good decisions. This is your time to shine, co-parents.


And, if you can do it now, you can do it every day. That's good ex-etiquette.

(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website at

(c)2020 Jann Blackstone

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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