The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is affecting everyone's daily lives, as the government take necessary steps to manage the outbreak. Steps which now prohibit British people (including children) going outside their home except to carry out essential shopping, daily exercise, attend medical needs or attend essential work.
The big question for those separated families with children, of course is what is the effect of the Stay at Home Rule on those families subject to Child Arrangement Order ('live with/spend time with orders') or on other families where care of children is shared?
The answer came 24th March 2020 when senior government minister Michael Gove, appearing on BBC news, assured parents and carers that the exceptions to the new government-imposed home isolation DO extend to permitting children to move between their parents, where they are separated.
In light of the above, Cafcass put together the following useful guidance:
- 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.
- If you're not able to maintain your child's routine due to illness or self-isolation, or non- availability 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 any court directed spending time arrangements are missed, think about how you and your co- parent may be able to 'make up' your child's time after the restrictions are lifted.
Remember, any rearranged spending time arrangements should always be for your child's benefit and should not be used as a source of tension or conflict - especially at a time when your child is likely to be feeling anxious about the effects of the pandemic. Alternative arrangements could also be considered to maintain regular contact, for example by Face-Time, WhatsApp Face-Time, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if that is not possible, by telephone.
If you are involved in a dispute regarding your children, Fosters can provide you with specialist advice and assistance. Please contact a member of the Family Law Team on 01603 620508 to make an appointment.