Has Covid-19 Changed Parenting Roles

Stay at home orders, remote work and virtual school has changed the role of parents certainly for the short term and perhaps even longer. I recently read an article in the New York Law Journal that discussed the evolution of child care and parental responsibilities during the Corona Virus Pandemic.

Which parent stays home to be with the children, which parent works remotely, which parent can attend to home schooling for the children, which parent can help teach the children has all redefined the roles of parents both within non-divorcing homes as well as where the parents no longer live together.

Prior to Covid-19 it was often (not always) the situation where the parent with the greater income was absent from the home more than the other parent. Now the complete opposite could be the case. Imagine one parent is a financial planner or works in the financial industry and the other parent works as a waiter or waitress or in a retail store. The parent in the financial services career may be completely able to work remotely with a computer, the internet and a cell phone. That parent might even be able to structure their work day around the schedule of the children. The other parent, by contrast, has a job that requires in person attendance. Clearly, there could be a role reversal in terms of which parent is home more with the children and which parent is now more involved in their education.

Parents that are in the midst of a contested divorce or contested custody case may have had their case turned upside down and inside out as a result of these changes. Even parents who are already separated may need to modify their existing parenting plan because of these changes. If a school opens for in person learning and then changes to virtual learning the need for child care or supervision of the children could result in major changes of the parenting schedule. Imagine a situation with virtual learning in which the child no longer has to be "residing in the school district" as the child might have to temporarily reside with the other parent.

It is clear that these unprecedented times may result in permanent changes to how courts and attorneys create parenting schedules. The concept of joint custody may also change as there may need to be better definition of educational decisions and responsibilities of the parents.

It will be increasingly important to have experienced matrimonial counsel as these agreements are drafted so that there is as much clarity as possible even though the future may be hard to predict.