The current restrictions present challenges for us all but if you have children with a former partner or spouse, you have the additional task of working out what arrangements are best to enable your children to maintain contact with both parents.
The Government has confirmed that children of separated parents are allowed to move between their parents’ homes as long as they are otherwise complying with the ‘Stay at Home Rules’.
Here are ten tips to help you manage this during the lockdown:
- Discuss with your former partner/spouse any potential risks, for example, if anyone in the household is considered to be ‘high risk’, and whether it is safe to continue the usual arrangement. Inform each other straightaway if anyone starts displaying COVID-19 symptoms so that alternative plans can be made.
- If it is safe to do so, try to maintain the normal arrangements for the stability of your children. Keeping to usual timings of mealtimes and bedtimes and any family rituals will also help your children feel secure and adjust during what is otherwise an unsettling time.
- Discuss with your former partner/spouse how home schooling is going to work and draw up a timetable to share out who will do what lessons with your children.
- If changes need to be made to the usual arrangement, try to agree these with your former partner/spouse in writing, such as in an email or text message, to avoid misunderstandings.
- If you feel it is not safe to keep to the usual arrangement, but your former partner/spouse is not in agreement, you can exercise your parental responsibility and make changes to what you consider is safe. Be aware that if your former partner/spouse challenges your actions later through court proceedings, they may be scrutinised by a judge. Be sure to document in an email or a text why you have changed established or agreed arrangements.
- If direct contact is not safe, establish and maintain indirect contact, such as video calls using Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp. Think of ways to engage your children during calls, such as playing a game, watching something at the same time, which you can talk about or reading them a story.
- If direct contact cannot take place for a while, be willing to make up the time once the lockdown is over, such as during the next school holidays.
- If there is a change to the usual arrangements, reassure your children that this is temporary, that both parents love them and that you are working together to make sure they have regular contact.
- Be flexible and accommodating: your former partner/spouse may need to self-isolate, they may be working from home, suffering a loss of income, or may need to work more hours if, for example, they are a key worker.
- Do all you can to agree sensible arrangements with your former partner/spouse. It is still possible to make an application to Court for a Child Arrangements Order but there are significant delays and non-urgent cases are being postponed.
If you need further help or advice about how to manage your situation, our family team is here to help.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.