With social distancing measures having been brought in, it’s an understandably unsettling time for parents not living with their children. It’s also a lot of change for children to take on board.
Many co-parenting arrangements are made informally. Others follow a set routine and there might even be a court order in place giving strict directions.
So, what can you do to maintain contact with your children during this anticipated prolonged period of self-isolation?
What the government advises
Parents will be relieved to know that the government has now provided guidance for those families who live apart. They have outlined that where parents do not live in the same household, children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.
Moving between homes
It goes without saying that the government’s very clear guidance in relation to leaving the house must still be followed. Where possible, children should be transported between homes without the use of public transport. This is so that they come into as little contact as possible with other people.
CAFCASS has advised that the usual arrangements should continue as far as possible with both sets of parents being flexible.
Movements should only happen when it is absolutely necessary. If your schedule involves a lot of travel between households, you might want to discuss with your co-parent whether a new routine could be temporarily put in place.
Depending on your personal circumstance and change to working patterns, this might involve clustering the time spent with your child. Perhaps into alternate weeks - rather than a few days at a time.
Options during the school break
During the school holidays, you may need to reach a different agreement than what you would normally have during half term.
Children, understandably, will be more anxious than usual. They may not want to leave their current household. And if they are in a high-risk category or live with a parent who is at high-risk, they should be completely self-isolating. Therefore, the usual arrangements will not be able to go ahead.
In these uncertain times, the health and safety of children should be put at the forefront and this includes their mental health.
Professionals have indicated that the Court will be sympathetic if Child Arrangements Orders cannot be followed because the safety and well-being of the children must be put first.
Making use of digital contact
Virtual contact should be encouraged as much as possible and children should be made aware of the signs of safety when using digital resources. Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp and Facetime are all useful platforms being used by families to stay connected.
Playing games, reading stories, sharing feelings and helping with home-schooling can all be made possible. Many schools have various apps such as Class DoJo and Tapestry that enable both parents to be involved with helping their child.
Of course, every situation is different. We are happy to advise on the specifics of your child’s circumstances. Contact us to arrange a fixed fee £149 telephone consultation with one of our family law solicitors.