March 25, 2020
Following Boris Johnson’s announcement on 23rd March 2020, the country has been placed into a police enforced lockdown which has introduced a new raft of restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In such unprecedented times, this has undoubtedly raised questions as to exactly what we can and cannot do.
The guidelines state that you should only leave your house for the following reasons:
- You can only shop for your necessities which should be undertaken as infrequently as possible.
- 1 form of daily exercise. (ensuring a two-metre gap is maintained)
- Medical needs and supporting a vulnerable family member.
- Travelling to and from work, if absolutely necessary and this cannot be conducted from home.
How do these guidelines affect parents who are co-parenting?
Despite the guidelines being very clear on what the Government are aiming to achieve, there are still a number of questions being raised in specific circumstances. If parents have agreed during the terms of their divorce or separation to have shared custody of their children, including allotted times to be spent in either household or nights spent sleeping at one house, then stricter measures to stop families moving around could be problematic.
In accordance with a study conducted by Relate, (a relationship charity) almost half of divorces in England and Wales involve children under the age of 16. Therefore, this naturally impacts a wide number of families across the UK.
One query has been raised whether separated or divorced parents are able to see their children if they do not live with them on a permanent basis. An initial suggestion was made that children should not be travelling between different households during the restrictions.
This inevitably caused worries to parents who spend limited time with their children under their current arrangements. However, this was later retracted in a tweet by Michael Gove where he stated;
“I wasn’t clear enough earlier, apologies. To confirm while children should not normally be moving between households, we recognise that this may be necessary when children who are under 18 move between separated parents”.
What steps should parents who are co-parenting take?
This is clearly a time when cooperation and effective co-parenting is more important than ever and whilst maintaining current arrangements where possible is important it may be prudent to make some variations. A pragmatic approach for parents would be to limit the movement of your children between households to decrease any possible transmission. To support this is may be necessary for a child to stay with each parent for a longer period of time. In addition, if handovers for contact under your current arrangement takes place in a usually busy public environment, alternative arrangements may be necessary.
It should also be borne in mind that as a lot of parents will be off work during this time or working remotely, this is an opportunity for parents to spend quality time with their children. It would also be hoped that parents can set up a clear and consistent routine for the children during this time.
In the event that either a child or parent is demonstrating conditions symptomatic to that of COVID-19, the Government guidelines should be followed to self-isolate. Ultimately, routine does not trump safety. These are unparalleled times and the first and foremost consideration should be the safety and well-being of both the children and wider family.
It would also be sensible during this time of isolation that families function with a degree of normality wherever possible. Those parents who are considered key workers are still able to send their children to school. Those parents not considered key workers will be considering what activities are permitted under the restrictions to ensure the family maintains their health and well-being. The Government have indicated that families are able to go for walks and runs, once a day but must maintain a 2-metre distance from others.
What should parents do if they require advice?
There is often a negative presumption that Family Solicitors are only required when there are hostile environments between parents and families upon the breakdown of a relationship. However, this is a misconception as a Solicitor’s role is to ultimately prevent such breakdowns wherever possible.
For further advice in relation to either family arrangements during this time please do not hesitate to contact us. Call us on 0800 158 4147 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book an initial telephone consultation.