To mask or not to mask? That is the question, and, if you and your ex don’t agree, co-parenting could get ugly. Regardless of your stance on the matter, your kids’ health and safety come first, which means you must be able to communicate and compromise effectively.
Masking Your Children
That being said, there are a number of steps you can take if you simply can’t come to an accord.
1. Agree on Resources and Guidelines
There’s been so much information and disinformation surrounding the virus that some people don’t know who to trust. Instead of researching or listening to others, they make up their own rules and safety protocol. Yet, there are dozens of reliable resources, organizations, and experts out there that constantly provide trustworthy information. So if you can’t agree on masking the kids, maybe you can at least agree on which sources and guidelines to trust.
For example, if you or your ex are wary about trusting mainstream media, look to public health authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. Leading scientists, academic institutions, and other international agencies may also provide helpful and trustworthy information. Choose a few together and agree to follow their current and future mask guidelines. Doing so will mitigate arguments so that protocols are clear for both you and the kids.
2. Obey the Law
Of course, even if you and your ex don’t agree with laws and mask mandates, you should still follow them. After all, it is the law and you should set a good example to your kids by obeying it.
Because COVID-related rules and regulations are constantly changing, it’s important to research local, state, and federal mask protocol before adhering to a list of rules. Where can the kids go with and without masks? Are there any exceptions? When all else fails, follow court orders. Then, if you have proof of your ex breaking any laws, you may be able to use it against them and gain more custody over the children.
3. Rely on “Self-Help”
When the pandemic first began, country-wide shutdowns caused the courts to close, leaving you and your family without your usual resource: the legal system. Only a few states released statements instructing parents to keep following their custody orders. The rest gave little to no legal guidance, leaving parents to fend for themselves and exercise what the law refers to as self-help — or taking matters into their own hands.
In this case, you can make your own decisions and go against court-issued custody orders if you have enough reason. For instance, if your kids are immunocompromised and your co-parent refuses to have them wear a mask, you could withhold visitation rights. However, you’ll have to defend your decision and provide proof of misconduct whenever your local court reopens.
4. Ask the Kids
Regardless of how old your kids are, it’s important that they have some autonomy when choosing to wear a mask. Ask them how they feel about masking up in different environments and try to determine which factors might influence their inclinations. Maybe they want to wear a mask because it relieves pandemic-related anxiety or perhaps they don’t want to wear theirs because it’s itchy and distracting.
Once you figure out what your children prefer, work together with your co-parent to find a solution that best suits their needs. Do your best to keep emotions out of the conversation to prevent the kids from taking sides. Then, try to respect their decisions moving forward.
5. Get the Vaccine
The best way to remedy mask-related disagreements is to vaccinate your entire family. Doing so will reduce the spread without you having to wear face coverings. Plus, your kids will have at least some level of immunity against the virus.
Of course, mentioning vaccines can open up a whole other can of worms. However, as more places are requiring vaccinations to enter, you or your spouse might be more willing to concede as time goes on. Plus, you may be able to agree on vaccines even if masks are a point of contention, so it’s certainly a topic worth discussing.
6. Ask for a Change in Custody
When all else fails, take legal action. First, try mediation. If your ex refuses to respect your wishes and is ignoring the law, make an appointment to have a third party help you reach an agreement. Then, if they’re still unwilling to cooperate, seek admonishment. In this case, the court will warn your ex that, if they don’t follow court orders, you can take legal action against them.
If you still can’t reach an agreement, file that motion and ask for more — or full — custody. Remember to bring evidence of violations to the hearing and consult your attorney for legal guidance. They can help you gather proof or find witnesses to support your claims.
The situation surrounding the pandemic is constantly changing. States that once had strict mask mandates now have none while others are requiring even vaccinated guests to wear face coverings indoors.
Therefore, you must stay up-to-date on the latest developments and stay flexible as the situation continues to unfold. Keep an eye on the news, clearly communicate expectations with your ex, and be ready to change your opinions as things develop. Having an open mind will mitigate disagreements and help you both remember that the kids are your top priority, which will ultimately make you better co-parents moving forward.