In these difficult times, we are all being told “Stay Home – Save Lives”. This is difficult for any family but extra challenging for families going through Child Arrangement Orders. Here, children usually split their time between two parents who do not live in the same household.
New Government Advice
Michael Gove, speaking to ITV on 24 March 2020, stated that children in families that are separated must now stay in whatever home they are currently living in. However, a few minutes after his appearance, he took to Twitter to say his message “wasn’t clear enough” and that in fact, children under the age of 18 can move between separated parents.
Due to this uncertainly, the Rt. Hon. Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice published guidance on 24th March 2020 which states that transporting a child/children to the other parent is deemed as essential travel and gives guidance to parents as to how to deal with matters in this difficult and uncertain climate.
An exception to this is where someone in one of the households is showing symptoms of the coronavirus. In this case then they must lock down completely with no movement between locations and other arrangements must be put in place as set out in the published guidance.
Making it work in practice
While this is going to make difficult circumstances even more challenging, here are some tips to make it work:
- Communicate with one another about any worries
- Make agreements such as whether you are happy for your child to go for a walk or visit a supermarket
- Work to the same school timetable
- Record any new agreements in writing and send to each other (letter, text message or email)
- Act responsibly and in the child’s best interest and safety
If it is impossible to move between households then there are alternative arrangements that can be used to maintain regular contact within the Stay Home rules, for example:
- Social media apps
- Other video connections
If none of these are possible, then keep in contact by telephone.
If arrangements proportion more time to one partner than the other, you could consider agreeing to extra holiday time at a later date.
If you are unsure how to make an agreement work, or find it difficult or impossible to communicate with your ex-partner, then please contact our expert Family Law team for help and advice.