PHOENIX (Good Morning Arizona) -- With the entire country now practicing social distancing, it's creating an unusual and sometimes difficult situation for parents who share joint custody of their kids.
"There is no- one-size-fits-all," Michael Aurit, owner of The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation, said. "Really, the decision should be up to parents. What do parents feel most comfortable with, and what can parents agree on together? Sometimes there is going to be a need to compromise."
Aurit is a professional mediator and Arizona State University professor who has seen a significant increase in calls from divorced or separated couples in the last few weeks. In Arizona, child custody orders are still binding but Aurit says some of his clients are making adjustments.
"Parents who are sharing time 50/50, equally, with their kids, the question now is do those parenting time schedules temporarily need to change," Aurit said.
Aurit says many divorced parents may need to come up with a temporary plan on a new parenting schedule that works best for the kids and reduces the spread of germs. He offered several examples.
• Switch to one week on, one week off to limit the back and forth.
• Have one parent go Monday-Friday, and the other take the weekend.
• One parent has the kids 100% of the time, while the other uses Facetime or Skype to connect multiple times a day
• Couples move back in together temporarily
Aurit says parents have to make sure to set a date to review the temporary plan.
"One of these things that has helped is an agreement that this is going to be reviewed. Once per month, come back and see if we need to re-evaluate," Aurit said.
Aurit says it's also good to find common ground on social distancing and hygiene and make sure to plan out makeup time if the 50/50 parenting split is shifting.
"When things normalize, the parent that is having less time will get more time in the summer than usual, spring or fall break," Aurit said. "These are some of the compromises that parents are making."
The Superior Court of Maricopa County sent AZFamily a statement saying "as a general policy, the family department has concluded that allowing children to maintain regular access to each parent is in their best interests and the transporting of children for the start and end of each block of parenting time is part of the essential business that is authorized under the Governor’s Executive Order. While the facts of any given case shall dictate the result, it is the general view of the family department that existing parenting plan schedules remain in effect and enforceable.”
If you have a court-ordered parenting plan and need assistance, click here to be directed to the Superior Court of Arizona.