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Family Law: Covid 19 — Contact & shared care arrangements

Family Law: Covid 19 — Contact & shared care arrangements

With the current Covid 19 situation and imposed ‘lockdown’, we are experiencing uncertain and challenging times. Normal routines have been severely impacted. Children are being home schooled and are missing out on extra circular activities, and visiting friends and family. Maintaining a level of consistency is key, but it can be very daunting to try to keep to prior agreed arrangements for children when other factors come into play.

It is natural for a parent to be concerned how best to safeguard and protect their child from the potential risk to health posed by the coronavirus. Many questions have arisen from this, such as:

- What should happen if one parent is self- isolating due to an underlying health condition?

- What if one parent is a key worker?

- What if each parent has a different view on risk and the management of the restrictions currently in place?

The Government advice is that children under the age of 18 will be permitted to move between their parents’ households during this period of lockdown.

If a child, parent or other person living in a house is unwell, it is sensible for a child not to move until everyone in the house has completed the period of self-isolation. When that ends, pre-existing contact arrangements can continue. A child who is considered vulnerable on health grounds may, however, need to stay in one household only.

For children who live with key workers, there should ideally be discussion about the difficult decisions to be made. The same applies to the challenging situation faced by a parent who seeks to protect their own, and their child’s health and safety, in the face of opposing views by the other parent. It is an equally difficult situation for a parent who ordinarily has regular contact and perceives that contact is unreasonably being withheld. The Government has called upon families to work sensibly and cooperatively. This can be very difficult for many, particularly parents who are going through an acrimonious separation or divorce. Trust may be non-existent. Channels of communication may have broken down.

If direct face to face contact is not an option, there are other ways to ensure that the relationship between a child and both parents continues.  There are a number of apps which allow video calls, such as Skype and Facetime. Some parents have been able to arrange that the other can meet up with the child for the one hour of daily exercise permitted in accordance with the current guidelines.

This is an anxious time for parents who have to consider challenges from the other parent in relation to contact arrangements. Often each case has to be considered on its own individual circumstances. Children need to feel supported and reassured by their parents but parents need that support and reassurance too.

Our experienced family team understand the issues being faced in relation to child care in the present difficult circumstances. We can offer you specific advice and also assist with communication, which at this time is more important than ever.

For more information or advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our family team.

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Written by : Lynne Collingham

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