Posted by Laura Podger, Solicitor
Co-parenting and how to cope during Coronavirus
Last night the Government announced further and more stringent measures in the fight against the virus. We have no doubt this caused immediate concern for those among us co-parenting children when separated.
Is travelling to the other parent considered absolutely essential travel?
We are yet to receive further clarification from the Government as to what exactly is covered by absolutely essential travel and we will keep you updated on this. However due to the immediacy of this, we note that in Italy – which has been in lock down since the beginning of March to fight the Covid-19 outbreak – travelling to take your child/children to the other parent is considered essential, and particularly so when there is a Court Order in place.
At the time of writing Michael Gove MP (Minister for the Cabinet Office) has said ‘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 separated parents. This is permissible & has been made clear in guidance’.
Despite the very stringent measures adopted by the Italian Government, this travelling is permitted so long as neither parent nor child has any symptoms. It is our view, which seems to be consistent with that of Michael Gove, that England will adopt the same or similar approach and we will be able to transport children to, or collect children from the other parent on normal contact days. This will help ensure parents do not find themselves in breach of a Court Order or going against the normal child arrangements, which would be confusing for children who are already facing a lot of change. Obviously, we take the view that this would not apply to cases in which individuals are showing symptoms – even in circumstances in which Court Orders are in place, we expect that Judges would agree that Government guidelines should prevail.
Child arrangements may be in place by agreement between the parties or by a Court Order. You are highly likely to be concerned about the arrangements in place and how these will be adhered to at this time. With schools closed parents may have different opinions on how children should be spending their days at home. Communications in such cases is key.
There may also be concerns about one parent, who may be working as a key worker, catching the virus and passing it on to the children and spreading it to the other parent and extended family.
If one parent is at risk of infection or diagnoses Covid-19, then parents should work together to come up with alternative solutions for contact. We would encourage using video calling technology such as Facetime or Skype to maintain contact with the other parent safely when self-isolation inevitably becomes necessary.
Our advice would be wherever possible try to put any past difficulties behind you both and communicate with each other as best you can to try to come to a solution, comply with Court Orders and existing child arrangements where practically possible unless this puts anyone at risk of catching or spreading the virus.
There will sadly be times when parents cannot agree and where it may become necessary for court intervention. If you need any advice or and if this is your situation then please do get in contact with us. Courts are still operating as normal, albeit remotely, and urgent assistance can be obtained when necessary. We will be able to guide you through this process as we would normally.
Practical tips to help you in this uncertain time
• Try to be flexible and communicate wherever you can with the other parent;
• Put your children’s needs and their health at the forefront of any decision-making;
• Use calendars to help your children visualise and understand who the children will spend time with and when.
• Try co-parenting apps such as Our Family Wizard to keep everyone in the loop about what the children are doing each day.
If you are concerned that one parent is making poor decisions and not looking out for the best interests of the children, please make sure that this is communicated to them in writing via email or message. Please try to be factual and non judgmental whenever possible – this is a very difficult time for everybody.
Please also do not hesitate to contact us to discuss the next steps with a member of our family team.
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