With the government advising us to follow social distancing guidelines wherever possible, does this put pressure on families with separated parents?

Social distancing is particularly challenging for parents who are separated and the obstacles they may face with maintaining on going childcare arrangements. There are numerous problems that could arise, some of which we have experienced are:

  • A parent that is caring for a child but is required to self-isolate and is unable to take a child to the other parent. Under current guidance, the child will also be required to self-isolate with that parent for 14-days.
  • A child might develop symptoms while with a parent and may have to remain in self-isolation with that parent
  • Children may become too unwell to visit a parent.
  • Breach of court orders or parental agreements

Avoiding disputes between parents or guardians

In an attempt to limit potential disputes CAFCASS has issued the following recommendations:

  • Unless there are justified medical/self-isolation issues – or some other national issued guidance or expectation associated with leaving the house in your area – children should maintain their usual routine of spending time with each of their parents. If there is a child arrangement order this should be complied with unless to do so would put your child or others at risk.
  • Early honest communication with your former partner to agree a variation to your arrangements.
  • Suspending the arrangements by agreement. If time is lost the parent who normally cares for the child should consider offering to ‘make up’ the time at a later date. Remember any rearranged spending time arrangement should always be for the child’s benefit.
  • Consider the use of technology to offer alternatives such as FaceTime or Skype or telephone calls. Think creatively about how to support your child to stay in touch.
  • Be extra vigilant at this time to make sure that children don’t hear discussions about a court case or any dispute. This is particularly relevant with the added worry and stress the pandemic brings.
  • Follow carefully all the government guidelines on social distancing, hand washing and sensible hygiene.

Parents exploiting Covid-19 could face court action

A statement made by Head of the family courts Sir Andrew McFarlane suggested that children should continue to visit parents they do not live with, as long as both households are healthy.

We have seen an increase in enquiries from separated parents regarding disagreements over contact and childcare arrangements during the government enforced lockdown. Some parents are suggesting that the Covid-19 guidance has been exploited to stop access altogether.

The guidance from the courts for parents who live apart suggests that children under the age of 18 can be moved between homes after an assessment that they are not being put at risk.

Unfortunately for some parents, trust and communication has broken down and any conversations regarding child visits can seem impossible, but rest assured there is help available.

Free review of existing child arrangements

Parrott & Coales family law team has extensive experience in dealing with issues around child arrangements. If you have concerns about your circumstances, Parrott & Coales offer a free review of your existing child arrangements and court orders that may be in place.

Given the current social distancing measures, we can provide advice by various means including email, telephone or Video call in order to help you.

Contact us today on 01296 318 500 or email law@pandcllp.co.uk

 

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