Helen Bishop, Consultant Solicitor

How will the Corona virus affect our child arrangements? Update

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This article provides updated information to the original How will the Corona virus affect our child arrangements? Available here.

In the last 7 days, the changes to our country have been unprecedented, and to us all quite overwhelming.

In the most relaxed of households, the strain will be showing, as children are now at home for the foreseeable future, and parents are having to either work from home or deal with the prospect of having to go out to work in difficult circumstances, or face the prospect of redundancy.

For those families who are separated or going through divorce the situation becomes even more problematic. We  don’t intend to deal with all of the issues in one blog, but over the coming days will provide short pieces with useful tips and guidance, and to start we  will focus on Child Arrangements, with a question and answer format:

My children went for contact this weekend and the other parent took them out to the shops.

The government have given very clear advice on this, however it became very clear over the weekend that people are choosing to ignore the advice.  Parents need to agree right now that the children are going to be kept at home, supervised and practice social distancing if a trip out is necessary. If a parent is not prepared to do this, then in these extraordinary times  you may need to seek advice from a solicitor for a letter to be sent to them warning them that if they do not comply the arrangements will have to be temporarily  suspended whilst this situation continues.

It is important that this is expressed in writing, especially if there is a court order in place, so that there is a clear record of the reasoning, so that it will not be seen as a normal  breach of the order.  It may also be necessary to have some form of direction from the Court where an order is in place.

The advice is clear if anyone in the household is experiencing any symptoms, being a cough or a high temperature they need to be self isolating and must not go out.  In those circumstances, it would not now be seen as unreasonable not to let the children go to the other parents house, as this will put two households at potential risk of the virus.

This is not an excuse to stop child arrangements. On the contrary if child arrangements can continue carefully, then they should. These are difficult times for  us all, and children are likely to be experiencing higher levels of anxiety, and as such should as far as possible retain their regular routines including sharing time between parents.

I am self isolating and my children are due to go to the other parent next weekend  – what should I do.

At this  unprecedented time, this situation will make the arrangements not possible. You should advise the parent as soon as possible and preferably put it into writing.  Whilst they may not be able to go and stay with the other parent for the time being you should arrange and actively encourage alternative methods of contact, for example  Skype or FaceTime.

We have agreed to share the Easter Holidays – what should we do now?

If both households are well, there is no reason why the arrangements cannot continue as arranged but with careful management of handover. However thought and caution needs to be considered, especially with younger children, in case a member of the household becomes ill during that period.

Whilst the government have not given specific instructions as yet,  the current  advice is that there should not be any non essential travel, and it is likely that the advice in the coming days will be stricter so to prevent people traveling in the UK to go on holidays.

In summary, these are extraordinary times that nobody has experienced before, and the key has to be for everyone to work together and to keep open clear lines of communication.  We understand that this may be difficult especially if the parents  relationship is fractious, but extra effort will need to be given  to work together so to ensure the children’s best interests are met, and everyone is kept safe.

Here at BH&O, whilst our office is now closed, all of the solicitors are working remotely, and should you have any issues or concerns please contact us by telephone or email and we will be happy to assist

Helen Bishop, BH&O Consultant and Ruth Hawkins Partner.

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