COVID-19 and child arrangements: co-parenting in troubled times

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Family Law on Friday, March 27th, 2020

We’re all hearing how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the stock market, businesses, employees and the property market. But on an individual level, it is also proving hugely disruptive for families – particularly separated ones. With movement now seriously restricted, many co-parents are concerned about how they will maintain the child arrangements set out in their Court Order, particularly in terms of the regular movement of their child or children between households.


Current Government advice

Despite putting stringent restraints on travel and people’s ability to leave their homes, the government has outlined certain exemptions to these rules. One such exemption relates to the movement of children under 18 between the homes of separated parents. This means that any arrangements regarding time spent with each co-parent, including contact sessions and overnight stays, will largely be able to continue.


Court Orders and changing child arrangements

We are living in exceptional times, and you may need to temporarily change the child arrangements set out in your Court Order. This can be done if both parties agree. For example, if one co-parent is at higher risk of developing complications if they were to contract coronavirus, you may agree that it is best for your child to temporarily stay with the other parent. Likewise, if one of you became ill, then it would make sense for the other parent to take your child for the duration of their illness. It should be noted that, in line with government advice, you and your child should then self-isolate for 14 days as they will have been in contact with somebody who has the disease.


Ensuring regular contact

Your child’s welfare should be your main concern during this time; this includes ensuring that they maintain regular contact with both co-parents and their extended families. Apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom or Facetime can therefore be very useful in maintaining healthy family relationships. Additionally, if your child is unable to physically visit a co-parent for a period, you might wish to consider offering them extra contact time once restrictions are lifted.


Arrangements relating to school time and holidays

Many separated parents have different child arrangements for term time and holidays, which could be thrown into disarray by school closures. However, with many schools still educating children online, it may be possible to maintain something approaching your normal routine. For example, your child can continue to study during normal school hours, completing their work remotely from home, during their school’s term time dates. This routine can then be relaxed during their school’s holiday periods. If you and your co-parent have arrangements to pick your child up from school on certain days, then you could agree for them to pick your child up from your home instead at the usual time.

You and your co-parent should also communicate about your child’s school routine to ensure they are adequately supervised and have all the books and equipment they need.


Dealing with communication breakdowns

Sadly, there will be cases where communication breaks down and you and your co-parent are unable to come to an agreement regarding temporary child arrangements. If you really cannot reach an agreement, you can apply to the Court, which is still conducting hearings remotely. This may take time, however, and should be considered a last resort.


Family Law specialists, here for you

Our Family Law team includes specially trained mediators who may be able to assist you in coming to an agreement. If this proves impossible, our specialist Family Lawyers can provide clear, sympathetic advice that prioritises your child’s welfare at all times. Just contact us on familylaw@attwaters.co.uk or call us on 0330 221 8855.


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