COVID-19 – The Impact on Child Matters
Amidst the current crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, parents whose children are subjected to Children Arrangements Orders, issued by the Family Court, may be concerned about their ability to meet the arrangements outlined by those Orders, and their impact on the health and wellbeing of the child(ren).
(It is important to note that parental responsibility lies with the parents, and not with the court, at any given time).
What is the Government advice on caring for children from separated homes during the coronavirus pandemic?
On 23rd March 2020, the UK Government issued advice for all citizens to stay at home as much as possible, and only to leave the home for essential shopping, restricted daily exercise, medical needs, or for key workers to complete essential travel to work.
The Government also addressed questions raised by those raising a child between two households:
“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
In these troubling times, parents are expected to take safe measures and make sensible decisions with regards to the care of their child/children. It is also advisable for both parents to evaluate which household is safest for the child to spend the majority of their time in, and to acknowledge that this could lead to a temporary change in the child’s primary carer. For example, the if the child’s current primary carer is a key worker, parents may wish to switch responsibility of the child’s care to the second parent as a temporary measure. This, however, can only be done if both parents can arrive at a mutual agreement for such an arrangement.
Does my child have to visit his/her other parent during the pandemic?
The decision to move the child between the households of both parents is a decision for the parents, and the parents alone, to make. Parents are advised to assess their circumstances, including the child’s health and wellbeing, the risk of exposure to the virus should the child be moved between homes, and the presence of anyone recognised as vulnerable in either household, and make a sensible decision accordingly.
In light of the current situation with regards to COVID-19, some parents may reach a mutual agreement to temporarily adopt arrangements alternative to those outlined in the Court Order for the care of their child, or make slight amendments/variations. If such arrangements are mutually agreed upon by both parents, this is fine to do. If changes are to be made, it is advisable for both parents to document this agreement in the form of a written note, email or text message. Not only will this allow both parties to outline their understanding of what has been agreed, reducing the risk of miscommunication, but this will also act as proof of the agreement should you face complications at any point later down the line.
If parents cannot come to an agreement on varied terms, but one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying to the arrangements set out in the Court Order would be acting against Government safety advice and putting the child and the rest of the family at risk, the concerned parent may choose to exercise their parental responsibility and provide an alternative living/care arrangement which they consider to be safer, and they would be within their right to do so.
I am losing out on contact with my child due to COVID-19. What can I do?
If a child does not get to spend time with their parent as is set down in the official agreement for the care of the child, the courts will expect both parents to make alternative arrangements which allow either parent to maintain regular contact with their child, within the new “Stay at Home” Government guidelines. This contact can be carried out remotely via Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp, Facetime, or another online messaging platform, if this is the arrangement all parties, including the child, are comfortable with.
The circumstances for the care of a child from a separated home during the coronavirus outbreak will vary between families. Please seek further advice from one of DRN’s expert legal professionals if you have any questions more specific to your situation. Contact our Family department on 01282 433241 or email firstname.lastname@example.org