On 23 March 2020, the Prime Minister announced significant restrictions on movement, which created uncertainty for separated parents who share childcare responsibilities.
Four reasons were given for people being able to leave their house – moving children between the homes of each parent wasn’t one of these. This led to speculation about how access rights and child arrangements would function during this ‘lock down’.
Can I still see my children?
The government have now clarified that it is OK for children to spend time with each parent and that existing arrangements should be maintained. This will no doubt be a huge relief to many families.
Communication between separated parents is vital in these difficult times. In most cases parents share parental responsibility for their children and should keep each other updated on their health and wellbeing.
What if I or my children are ill?
You should keep to existing arrangements where they are in place, except for where self-isolation is required. If these arrangements are not kept to, it is possible for an enforcement application to be made to the Court which could result in penalties being issued.
If it is not possible for the usual arrangements to go ahead because someone in either household starts to show symptoms of COVID-19, parents should keep communicating and consider alternatives. For example, organising telephone or FaceTime calls with the other parent to ensure that the children can see and speak with them, even if they cannot physically be with them.
Children will be anxious about the changing world around them and it is important for their emotional wellbeing that they maintain a good and regular relationship with both parents. Efforts should be made to make sure that as little as possible changes for them in this regard.
The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) have prepared some very useful guidance about navigating child arrangements at this time, which you can find by clicking here. (https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/download/12285/)
As the situation evolves, we hope to hear more from the Family Court over the coming days.
If you have any questions or ongoing child arrangement issues that you want to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced family law team.