The New Normal: Distance Learning and Updating Your Parenting Plan | August 6, 2020| Article & News


Updating Your Parenting Plan to Address Distance Learning

By Attorney Jordan Jeter

As more and more school districts across Oregon and Washington announce distance learning plans for the 2020-2021 school year, many parents are scrambling to figure out what will work best for their family. If parents are divorced, these decisions present even greater challenges. These unprecedented times are forcing families to find a new normal.

At McKean Smith, we encourage families to adopt bright-line parenting plans which provide a default for a variety of scenarios raised by Covid-19. Plans that address multiple contingencies give parents a pathway so they can resolve these issues on their own without the need for continued professional help. Most pre-COVID parenting plans did not anticipate a global pandemic, long-term school closures, or the corresponding economic impact on families. Some parents also have underlying health conditions that make exposure to Covid-19 riskier to their health than risks experienced in the other household. Without default provisions to rely on, parents are left asking many questions, including:

  • How do we balance distance learning and employment? What if I work from home, but my co-parent works outside the home?
  • How do parents stay connected and involved in distance learning across both households? Do we have a plan for shared communication with teachers?
  • Communication with my co-parent is difficult. How can we effectively communicate on school-related issues without devolving into conflict?
  • Is our child’s daily at-home school routine going to be the same in both houses? How can we coordinate routines?
  • How do we make sure our child has adequate equipment and supplies for distance learning? What is our plan for providing or transporting a computer for schoolwork?
  • How do we account for new childcare or tutoring expenses? Should we split these costs? Should we modify child support to address these costs?
  • What if we disagree about whether to send our child to school or engage in distance learning or homeschool? Can I keep my child enrolled in our local school district if my co-parent doesn’t agree?

The answers to these questions are hard and the options seem to change almost daily. Given the new reality of distance learning and the difficulty of navigating these times with your co-parent, it may be time to consider updating your parenting plan.

If you find yourself needing new ideas to address the realities of distance learning and challenges in co-parenting during a health crisis, contact us to schedule a time to speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys today by telephone or video conference. 

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