On Monday 23 March, the government tightened their measures with regards to tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Included in this was the restriction of all non-essential travel which has left many separated parents confused about what this means for their child arrangements.
Fueling the confusion, Senior Cabinet minister, Michael Gove initially stated on ITV’s Good Morning Britain show that children should not move between their parents’ homes. However, he later clarified the situation and apologised for being unclear on the issue.
Government guidance for families with combined children from divorce
The clarified official government guidance states that where parents do not live in the same household, children under the age of 18 can move between their parents’ homes.
Therefore, families who find themselves in this situation should experience no disruption to their usual child arrangements and the regular routine can continue, provided it is deemed safe to do so in accordance with other government and health guidance.
Top tips for parents during the coronavirus pandemic
This is no doubt an uncertain time for all, particularly for children who may not necessarily fully comprehend the circumstances in which we are currently living.
Here are some useful tips to help you and your children get through the present situation:
- Spend time with each parent - Children should continue spending time with each parent unless there are justified medical or self-isolation issues, or any further government guidance.
- Stick to the schedule - By following your child’s routine as closely as possible, for example, sticking to normal meal times, bed times and other family rituals, such as movie nights, reading before bed etc., you can help them feel more safe and secure during these uncertain times.
- Practice good hygiene - You can protect your child by encouraging them to catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, wash their hands frequently and by explaining to them that they need to stay away from other people, including friends, when out for walks etc.
- Keep open and honest communication - If for any reason you cannot maintain your child’s usual routine, it is best to communicate honestly and openly with the other parent. If this cannot be done by yourself, try and use a trusted third party.
- Get creative - Think of new, alternative ways you can support your children with staying in touch with the other parent, if they cannot move between households. Using platforms such as WhatsApp video, Skype and FaceTime are great ways to do this and allow the child and parent to read stories, sing and play together, as they would normally.
- Keep the child out of disputes - As frustrations and tension build with all the uncertainty and disruption, many conversations and discussions can easily become disputes. If you are having conversations with the other parent, try and do so out of earshot of the child, especially where discussion indicates dispute between the two of you.
- Rethink handovers - Handovers that would usually take place in a public place or at school will need to be reconsidered as many of these have been closed for the time being. Try and agree to another location, such as one of your homes. If you have to go into a public place, where possible both parents should remain in the car and the child get out of one and get into the other alone, as this abides by social distancing measures and keeps you safe. You should also take into account each other’s work patterns.
Smith Partnership Family Law Team remains available to help you with any queries you may have in relation to family issues or other legal matters. We can be contacted by telephoning 01332 225225 and asking for a member of the Family Team.
Please note, all advice and opinions offered in this article are subject to change in line with the latest government advice.