COVID-19 and the impact on arrangements for children

Prior to yesterday’s announcement questions were already being asked about the impact of social distancing upon the arrangements for children whose parents have separated. CAFCASS produced guidance, before the lockdown, which echoed the comments shared by family professionals. Essentially the advice was:-

  • Children benefit from having a relationship with both parents, providing it is safe to do so. They also benefit greatly from routine. Children are already likely to be feeling anxious about changes at school and, depending upon their age, the news that they are consuming. The consensus is that unless there are medical reasons not to parents should ensure that their children are able to maintain their usual arrangements to spend time with their parents.
  • If self isolation, due to symptoms or actual illness, is required, be creative about how to maintain communication between the children and the other parent. Older children will likely be able to maintain contact via technology such as Facetime or WhatsApp video calling in much the same way that we are being encouraged to stay in touch with our wider family and friends. There is technology, such as “Houseparty,” which allows for multiple video links and includes some fun features to engage children. Younger children, particularly very small children, will find it much harder to engage with such measures. However, technology can still be used to share a video or voice message of you reading a story or singing a favourite nursery rhyme.
  • Following any period of self isolation consider reinstating contact as soon as it is safe and practical to do so, to minimise the impact on the children.

This advice remains important in light of the most recent announcement from the Government on 23rd March 2020. The current guidance about the lockdown confirms that transporting children under the age of 18 between homes is one of the permitted reasons to leave your home. In light of yesterday’s announcement it may also be helpful to consider the following additional points particularly if there is a need to alter your current arrangements, perhaps to accommodate the work of critical workers or the current school shut down:-

Communication is often the key to addressing issues between parents. Keep in touch with each other using whichever method suits you both. Discuss the possible need to alter the current arrangements and try to agree a way forward. Consider how you will share important information with the children. Share information with each other about the social distancing measures you will be taking while the children are in your care.

Be kind to each other. These are frightening times for so many. You both love your children and want the best for them. Try to offer reassurance and updates to each other when you are caring for the children.

The Government guidance is constantly evolving. The position in relation to children moving between parents homes may change. Many family professionals with a social media presence are sharing information on a regular basis. If you do not feel able to keep abreast of the news channels consider following a professional that you trust for generic information or seek specific legal advice if you need advice about your own particular circumstances.

It is important for you and your children that you look after your own physical and emotional health. Following the advice of the Government and Public Health England about hand washing, social distancing and the current lockdown. Seek advice from your GP or online services if you are worried about the impact of the current situation on your own mental health.

In the event of a dispute between parents it is likely to be more difficult, though not impossible, to access the Court system. If you are concerned for a child’s welfare or safety you can and should make contact with Children’s Services. However, be mindful that the Court and the Local Authority are working hard with the limited resources and staff available to them to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected. Therefore, if it is safe to do so try to adopt a pragmatic approach and consider whether you are able to reach an agreement with your ex-partner directly.

If we can help with any aspect of child arrangements, divorce or separation please call Victoria Melling or Ceri Thomas or email /