*Coronavirus and childcare arrangements is in collaboration with Bromfield Legal
We are living in scary times. One for the history books you may say. “Unprecedented” is the word commonly used in the media. Living in lockdown to limit the spread of the Coronavirus is hard. What’s harder is Coronavirus and child contact arrangements for families to arrange. It’s a pandemic and the restrictions it has caused to everyday life are putting huge amounts of pressure on families not only across the nation but across the globe.
With everyone confined to their houses day-in-day-out, young children bursting with energy that’s proving difficult to burn off, teenagers are pining for their social lives and parents are possibly trying to work from home or heading out to graft on the frontline. It’s tricky.
But what about separated parents at this time? How should they be splitting childcare between them, or should they be at all? It’s a whole new range of challenges, especially for couples with an already strained relationship…
What’s the guidance on Coronavirus and child contact arrangements?
As we’ve all heard, no one should be leaving the house except for essential travel; to and from work, to get food or medicine, to care for someone vulnerable or for daily exercise. Plus, no one should have any physical contact with anyone outside of their household.
However, despite the initial confusion this guidance caused amongst separated parents sharing custody of children, Minister Michael Grove did confirm that children under the age of 18 whose parents are separated are able to move between households during restrictions – albeit movement must be kept to a minimum. The terms of any childcare arrangement order you have still apply and should continue to be followed unless there are any health risks.
If anyone living at either home is in the most at-risk group, sometimes called ‘shielded’, or has coronavirus symptoms, then a child should not be moved from household to household. Health comes first!
What if two parents disagree?
Just because the guidance says a child can or should move from household to household, it doesn’t mean they have to. It’s okay to be worried about the spread of coronavirus, but changes to a usual childcare schedule should be made jointly and with good reason to keep everyone safe and shouldn’t be used as an excuse to stop contact completely on one side.
Inevitably, many parents might find themselves in a conflict here. Whilst a concerned parent can change arrangements if they feel it goes against official health advice, the other parent can challenge this decision if they don’t agree. If that’s the case, mediation services are always an option. If it’s taken to the Family Court, it’ll be up to the Court to decide whether that parent acted ‘sensibly and reasonably’ in light of government advice and their specific circumstances.
In any case, contact should never be severed completely. Video chats on FaceTime and Zoom have been somewhat of a lifeline for families everywhere who aren’t able to meet and socialise as normal. Encourage this kind of communication and connection as much as you can. You could even go above and beyond and organise a game or quiz for your child to do on a video call with their parent, or challenge them to practice a dance routine or a play to perform. Whatever it is that will help everyone feel connected, take the time to do it.
Should I be making any changes to our usual schedule?
As movement should be kept to a minimum, it might be a good idea to share childcare between alternate weeks if possible, instead of going to and from for weekends or midweek stop-overs. That way, each parent gets the same amount of time and your child can settle in one place for a little longer.
The bottom line is to find something that works for all parties. ‘Lockdown’ is proving to be difficult for a lot of people – children included. No contact with their friends, limited outdoor recreational time and no school as they know it. For children with separated parents, not being able to spend time with both as they usually would could prove detrimental to their wellbeing – not to mention the negative effect it can have on the parent losing out on their usual contact.
As always thanks for stopping by, I hope you have found this post useful in these concerning times. Stay safe.