With schools now being closed and social distancing strongly encouraged this presents challenges to those parents who are co-parenting. As family lawyers we are increasingly being asked for advice on how to manage shared care arrangements and what to do if there is a court order in place setting out how children should spend their time between their parents. These are very stressful and anxious time for both parents and children alike.
Common concerns appear to be:-
a) what happens if I need to self-isolate and quarantine
b) either I or my child are vulnerable and therefore want to self-isolate
c) what happens if contact is at a contact centre
d) what happens if my child gets stuck at the other parent’s home
e) our handover takes place at school and the school is closed.
People may feel torn between arrangements that are in place whether by agreement or via court order and limiting their child’s movements. As parents you share responsibility for your children and it is important that you try and put past difficulties behind you and communicate with each other. If, due to health concerns a parent is self-isolating their children then be creative about other ways of ensuring that the other parent is still having a relationship with the children such at Facetime and Skype.
If arrangements and/court orders need to be varied to keep everyone safe try and do so by agreement; if it is not possible to talk to the other parent directly try to do so with the assistance of a mediator.
The current level of uncertainty is impacting on us all and decisions may need to be made to try to adapt to a new routine taking into account the guidance that is being given to us all. This guidance is changing on a frequent basis and parents need to react to this quickly to alleviate any anxieties their children may be feeling. There will be cases where it is not possible for parents to agree and in those cases it may be necessary for a court intervention. These are unprecedented times but there is advice that we can provide and resources that we can signpost to you to keep things as conflict free as possible.
If you would like to discuss any of the matters raised above, please contact Debbie Lloyd or a member of Birketts' Family Team.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at March 2020.