By Stephanie Dew – Solicitor and Head of Family Law at MG Solicitors

With the current government advice in place for social distancing and self-isolation and the schools due to close imminently, the way we live our daily lives is entering into unchartered territory.

For separated parents whose children regularly spend time in two households the practicalities of those arrangements could cause further stress and anxiety at this time.

Do I still need to comply with a Court Order?

For those who have a Child Arrangement Order in place, the technical answer is yes.  However, most arrangements can be varied by agreement so communicate with the other parent about what arrangements would work best for your family over the coming weeks, taking into account your own personal circumstances.  You may wish to consider implementing the “holiday” arrangements you normally have in place.  If you find it difficult to discuss matters with the other parent, consider whether a third party could help or you could instruct a mediator or a solicitor.  Most professionals are now set up to work remotely and are able to offer video and telephone consultations.

Don’t use the outbreak as an excuse to cut the other parent out

People may feel torn between breaching Child Arrangement Orders and wanting to limit their child’s movements as much as possible.  Subject to their being symptoms in a household requiring self-isolation, it seems entirely reasonable for children to be socially distanced across two households.  You should agree a joint approach with the other parent about keeping the children away from others, particularly crowds and older and vulnerable people.  If your children are of school age, you will need to discuss the arrangements for home-schooling to ensure that is provided consistently.   If your relationship with the other parent is difficult it is always sensible to set out arrangements in an email so that it is clear what has been agreed.

FaceTime and telephone calls

If a member of your household become ill and you are required to self-isolate in line with government advice this will mean that the children may not be able to return to your care until the end of the isolation period, or alternatively, that they may have to remain isolated with you and miss out on time with the other parent.  For other families made up of key workers, their valuable and significant work commitments over the forthcoming weeks will mean that they will not be able to enjoy as much time with their children as usual.  We are fortunate we live in an age where technology makes communication easy.  It is really important to consider other ways to ensure that the children are in regular contact with their other parent offering lots of Facetime and telephone calls.  Missed time could also be made up later in the year.

Above all, try and put past problems to one side and focus on how you can work together to limit your children’s movements whilst ensuring that they enjoy time with both their parents during these difficult weeks ahead.

Should you wish to discuss the issues in this article, you can contact us using the links below.

Please note: This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter.

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