Managing Child Arrangements during Covid 19.
We are receiving a lot of enquiries from parents who are concerned about how to manage the arrangements for their children during the Covid 19 crisis.
Some parents are worried about the health risks of children moving between 2 households, particularly if there are vulnerable adults or children in one household, and maybe key workers in another.
Handovers involving third parties ( e.g. grandparents, aunts, uncles ) may have to be changed if they are not members of the same household as one of the parents or if they fall into one of the vulnerable categories.
Some of you are worrying that one parent is not adhering to social distancing rules. They wonder if they have the right to stop contact altogether if they believe this is happening.
You may have been still fighting over child arrangements when lockdown was introduced. Some parents feel that the other parent is just using the current situation as an excuse to stop them from seeing the children.
It is normal to be worried
As parents your circumstances may be different. Some of you are on the front line as key workers; others are self isolating with children. Some have elderly or sick relatives who you are worrying about; others are struggling with their own mental health. Everyone has worries and they may be different but they are all real and deserve to be taken seriously.
What do the Courts say?
A statement by Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, on 24 March 2020 made it clear that the courts feel that the parents are the best people to make decisions for their children. where they are able to agree.
Existing arrangements (even court orders) can be varied in favour of safer alternatives in line with public health advice. You will not need the courts permission to do this providing that you both agree.
What if we can’t agree?
In the same statement Sir Andrew McFarlane tells us that where you cannot agree and one parent takes the matter into their own hands they will need to demonstrate (if the matter proceeds to court) that their actions were fair and reasonable.
Staying in contact
There is still an expectation that children will continue to have a relationship with both parents and that, where physical contact is not possible, this will be maintained through phone or video link or some other safe medium.
Practical Advice for reaching agreement
Whilst face to face communication is the best way of avoiding misunderstandings and building trust, that in itself is a challenge right now. Maintaining rules on social distancing if you are not in the same household means that you could end up shouting at one another across the doorstep.
See this as an opportunity
Being cut off from our normal family and friends support networks means this a good time for parents to find new ways to support one another. We have seen parents really come together at this time to help one another out for the sake of the children.
Try to see it from all sides
Try to listen and understand the concerns of the other parent. Try to imagine what it feels like for them. Think about what your children need from both of you. Think about what support you need from the other parent.
Use Facetime and Video Calling
Doorstep conversations may not be helpful but avoid texting and facebook messaging. Arrange to speak over the phone - if at all possible at a time when you can be uninterrupted. Even better use facetime or video conferencing.
We can help
If you need help to sort things out we are still here and are offering online appointments at a range of times to suit you (e.g. after the children are in bed).
You won’t need special equipment to talk to us online. A mobile phone or tablet will do.
Legal aid for mediation
And remember - if you or your partner are on any income related benefits (Universal Credit, Income related ESA or JSA or Income support) mediation will be FREE.
Mediation may also be FREE if you are on low income and have been so for the past month. We can do an assessment over the phone and let you know before you make an appointment. Contact us
To make an appointment with a mediator as soon as possible please phone us on 01952 303038 or email us at email@example.com