Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Emergency Planning with your Co-Parent

Over the last two weeks, New Jersey residents have realized there is a new normal to daily life due to a obvious change in weather patterns. Storms are more severe and our emergency preparation and plans must be detailed and diligent. The unprecedented Hurricane Sandy, and our first winter storm caused significant interruptions to daily life here in the Garden State. For the first time, many divorced couples were forced to make quick decisions on how to handle the care of their children. Impassable roads, loss of power, and inability to communicate added stress to these difficult days.

Many divorced parents have realized the need to develop a clear plan on how to handle their children and co-parent during these times. Negotiating New Jersey Child Custody and Parenting Time issues can be trying and should be well thought out long before an emergency arises. The process requires careful coordination and communication from both parties. If your current agreements do not clearly outline how you and your co-parent are going to handle the children in these emergency situations, now is a great time to put those provisions in place. Some points to consider:

  • Parents should have a plan to determine the safest place for the children to ride out a storm. This should be done regardless of who has parenting time for those days. These agreements should include how any disagreements are to be handled.
  • Parents should have an up-to-date list of cell and land line phone numbers.
  • Both parents should exchange addresses of where they will be and an alternative location in case of evacuation.
  • A clear plan for the evacuation of the children should be determined based on each parent’s residence. For these alternative locations, each parent should have an address and phone numbers.
  • Parents should agree to stay in contact during the storm or at a minimum make contact with each other as soon as possible.
  • Once the storm has passed, the children should be with the parent who has the best supply of basic needs. This would include electricity and water. Of course, children should only move locations if it deemed safe by authorities.
  • Lastly, parents need to agree on how they will make-up for lost parenting time. Options could include an extra weekend or few extra week nights depending on how much time was lost and flexibility of schedules.
  • Be reasonable both during crisis planning and then when emergencies start to unfold. Keep watch of conditions and circumstances. Be understanding if your co-parent was not able to reach you and you did not have contact with your children. Land lines, cell phones, and internet access could be compromised and roads impassable.

    I always advise my clients that it is best to put your differences aside and work to develop an amicable relationship with your co-parent/ex-spouse. That can be trying in normal day-to-day life. When emergencies arise, life becomes uncertain and emotions run high, it takes a tremendous amount of strength to hold it all together. Again, focus on what is in the best interest of your child.

    If you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on how to handle emergency situations, you may need the help of a New Jersey divorce and family lawyer to help you negotiate the details. Additionally, if you feel your ex-spouse/co-parent has not acted in the best interest of your children or your relationship with them, please feel free to call our office and make an appointment with a member of our expert legal team. We can take your personal circumstances and offer unique solutions that will work for your family.