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Guidance on your children having contact with their other parent during the coronavirus pandemic.
- AuthorFaye Williamson
On Monday 23 March 2020 Boris Johnson informed the nation that it will no longer be permitted to leave your home unless you are carrying out one of the following:
- Essential food shopping
- Essential work
- Obtaining medicine/attending to medical needs
- Daily Exercise once per day.
It was very clear there were to be no exceptions, which left families with separated parents wondering whether they were able to comply with the shared parenting arrangements in place, whether that be via Child Arrangements Order, Parenting plan or informal arrangement.
The following day Michael Gove reassured all separated parents that the exceptions to the government rules regarding isolation and social distancing do extend to allowing children to move between their parents’ homes.
Therefore, any Child Arrangements Order, Parenting Plan or informal arrangement should continue where it is safe to do so. The key is that the arrangement must be safe, therefore, if there is a vulnerable adult in either home, there is a risk of infection or a risk to the child’s health, a sensible assessment of the situation should be undertaken, and the parents should try to agree what should happen.
Unfortunately, where contact took place in a contact centre or in the community due to welfare concerns it is unlikely that direct contact between the child and parent will be able to continue. However, indirect contact via skype or facetime should take place, and the parents should consider how the time can be “made up” once the pandemic is at an end and the restrictions on movement lifted. The government have stressed it is important to act reasonably and sensibly in this time.
CAFCASS has issued the following guidance:
1. In these uncertain times, maintaining a sense of routine will help your child to feel safe and secure. Whilst your child's school may be closed, consider sticking to normal meal and bed times and any other family rituals your child takes comfort in.
2. Unless there are justified medical/ self-isolation issues, (or some future nationally issued guidance or expectation associated with leaving the house in your area) children should also maintain their usual routine of spending time with each of their parents. If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place this should be complied with unless to do so would put your child, or others at risk. This will help your child to feel a sense of consistency, whilst also reassuring them that the parent they don't always live with is safe and healthy.
3. If you're not able to maintain your child's routine due to illness or self-isolation, or nonavailability of people who ordinarily support your child’s contact, then communicate clearly and honestly with your co-parent. If it is not safe for you to communicate directly (for example if there has been a history of domestic abuse) then consider using a trusted third party to help you.
If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact our family team.