The impact that Coronavirus has undoubtedly had on adults and childrens’ day-to-day lives is indisputable. For families, particularly those who are co-parenting, the impacts could be very tricky. Further to the most recent ‘lockdown’ measures imposed by the Prime Minister, many parents are asking their family lawyer: “Which parent will my children stay with during the lockdown under a shared care agreement?”
The official Government guidance states that “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes”. The guidance was clarified on BBC news by cabinet minister Michael Gove this morning.
Mr Gove also stated that movement of children between households should be kept to a minimum in order to prevent the spreading of the virus, further to additional social-distancing measures implemented.
Child Welfare a Priority
If a shared care agreement or court order is already in place, this should be followed as closely as possible. The government’s guidelines in the lockdown period must be taken into consideration however the welfare your child / children is the main priority.
Contact Centre Visits
Difficulties may arise for those parents who meet in public to hand over their children or for those who have contact via a dedicated centre. An agreed meeting place may need to be changed to a more suitable location to ensure that contact with both parents still takes place. For those who have contact in a dedicated centre, you should contact the National Association of Child Contact Centres to see whether the centre you use is still open, see link here: https://naccc.org.uk/find-a-centre
Maintaining Contact Whilst Self-isolating
Any parent or member of the household displaying symptoms or in a vulnerable category should strictly follow the self-isolation guidelines however contact could still be maintained through a different medium such as FaceTime or Skype. This time should not be restricted, however this may also depend on your children’s response to the choice of communication chosen.
This is not a time for any court order or co-parenting agreement to be manipulated. If a parent is being unreasonable about contact during ‘lockdown’, ultimately, a court order can be sought as the family courts are carrying out remote hearings where possible. It should however be noted that there will be a backlog of applications to be heard and limited staff available to run the court. If contact is being denied, you should contact your solicitor in the first instance.
The new measures are initially to be in place for a minimum of 3 weeks upon which time they will be reviewed; a shared care agreement may need to be altered if the government’s advice changes.
The official guidance is continually changing, however, you can find information on guidance on compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders here. For further information on staying at home and away from others, visit the official Gov.UK website.