Shared Child Arrangements During Lockdownby Laura Driver
With Boris Johnson's announcement last night to put our country into lockdown, many parents with shared childcare arrangements were left confused as to what these new measures would mean for their family.
Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, also went on Good Morning Britain! today and wrongly advised that children of separated parents should not move between households, which left things even more unclear. Michael Gove later gave an apology for his misinformation (watch here) and also tweeted: “I wasn’t clear enough earlier, apologies. To confirm – while children should not normally be moving between households, we recognise that this may be necessary when children who are under 18 move between separate parents. This is permissible and has been made clear in the guidance.”
Some anxious parents are worried about breaking court orders and some are concerned that the current warnings to self-isolate are being used to flout current arrangements either agreed or ordered by the court.
To be clear the government has stated here that: “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
Advice from Cafcass (the court welfare officer) advises that wherever possible, parents should stick to agreed arrangements. Parents will need to give thought as to how this can work for their family whilst ensuring everyone’s safety and limiting the spread of Covid-19.
Some suggestions for a safe transition:
- Find a suitable open public space to transfer the children between cars, without any other interaction.
- Alternatively, one parent should be responsible for the collection and return of the children and that parent should not enter the other property.
- Separated parents should discuss and agree the approach being taken in each of their homes as to hygiene and other preventative measures being put in place so that parents (and their children) feel reassured that the same rules apply in both homes.
- Consistent routines as far as possible will be key in these worrying times in order to alleviate any anxiety children may be feeling.
- Try to be flexible and focus on the best interests of the child/ren. Shield them from conflict to help them feel secure.
- If you are unable to see your child in person, then indirect regular contact (FaceTime, Skype, Zoom) is important.
If a parent behaves unreasonably
Where a parent is unreasonably refusing to make children available to spend time with their other parent, ultimately a court application could be made. Court hearings are still running but are taking place remotely, with parties dialling into hearings or using video link.
Click here for Cafcass' COVID-19 guidance for children and families.
It is important to maintain some sense of normality and routine for your child during this unusual time while remaining safe. Ensuring your child is able to see both parents where possible is imperative