Co-Parenting During Coronavirus
Monday, March 23, 2020
Monday, March 23, 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic is creating special challenges for all of us, not least separated parents. Co-parenting children when separated is not without its challenges at the best times. With schools now closed and social distancing strongly encouraged, as family lawyers, we are increasingly being asked for advice on how to manage shared care arrangements.
Can I stop my child from seeing the other parent if we are self-isolating ?
While Government advice may change over the coming days, if your child and or someone in your household displays symptoms of Covid-19, then the advice is that everyone in your household must self-isolate for 14 days after the symptoms of the last person began.
If this situation applies, then of course contact should be suspended in the interests of the child and public health. We recommend that you notify the other parent immediately.
During self-isolation, it is important that you continue to promote the child’s relationship with the other parent by arranging regular contact via FaceTime, Skype, telephone, email and video messages.
Do we have to adhere to a Child Arrangements Order during Coronavirus ?
Parents can depart from the terms of a child arrangements order, but only if they both agree. If you or your child are ill and self-isolating, then contact the other parent immediately and explain the situation and reach a temporary agreement. We recommend that you document any temporary agreement to vary a child arrangements order in writing, either by text or email.
What if I have breached the Child Arrangements Order due the Coronavirus ?
This is an unprecedented pandemic and guidance has not been issued by the Government or Judiciary regarding the impact of the coronavirus on child arrangement orders.
If you did not make your child available to spend time with the other parent, in accordance with the child arrangements order, you will be in breach of the order. In such circumstances, the court can impose sanctions upon you, including an order that you have to pay financial compensation to the other parent, pay a fine and or undertake unpaid work.
If, however, you breached the order due to following government advice on Coronavirus, the court is likely to take the view that you were acting appropriately and in the best interests of your child. In these circumstances the court is unlikely to impose any sanctions.
If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent to vary your child arrangements order, we strongly recommend that you speak to a solicitor without delay and ideally before any breach occurs.
What can I do if my ex partner is using Coronavirus to stop me seeing my child ?
Perhaps the other parent says they are self isolating with the child so you cannot see them but then you see your child playing with friends at the park or see the other parent in a supermarket. In such circumstances you can apply to the court to enforce the current child arrangements order. If the court is persuaded that the other parent is using the current public health crisis to frustrate contact between you and your child it can impose sanctions against the other parent.
If there is no existing child arrangements order in the place and the other parent is stopping you seeing your child, you can apply to the Court for an order that sets out what the arrangements should be during this time together with the longer term arrangements, including where your child shall live and when they shall spend time with the other parent.
Court should however be seen as a last resort. They are likely to be extremely overwhelmed in the coming weeks and any applications will be subject to long delays. If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent as to what the arrangements should be during this time then you may wish to consider mediation. This is where an independent professionally trained mediator helps you and your ex partner reach an agreement on the arrangements for your children.
If you would like to discuss any of the matters raised above please contact Sarah Ward, one of our Family Lawyers, in the strictest of confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have plans in place that allow us to continue to support new and existing clients remotely during this pandemic. We will continue to hold face to face meetings where absolutely necessary but we are extensively using our video conferencing technology (Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp and others).