Please note: The information contained in this blog is correct as of 09:00 on 24/03/2020. With the developing nature of the coronavirus outbreak and government guidelines, things are subject to change. While we will try to keep the information in our blogs as up to date as we can during this time, we would always advise you speak with a solicitor about your individual circumstances.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to create worry across the globe, the knock on effects to daily life are being felt across society, with people contracting the virus, demonstrating the symptoms or being exposed to someone and needed to self-isolate for two weeks.
For those who are co-parenting, the uncertainty of businesses being open alongside school closures means that usual arrangements between parents as to how they see their children could be up in the air for the foreseeable future.
There may be parents whose arrangements for their children are set by court orders. Self isolating with a child rather than sending the child for contact or back from contact could potentially place that parent in breach of the order. However if that issue were ever to be brought back to court for breach of the order, the court is likely to take a sympathetic view and find that the parent had a “reasonable excuse” to breach the order.
UPDATE (24/03/2020): Following the implementation of more stringent measures to prevent unnecessary movement the government has issued guidance on what constitutes and exception to the general rule that we stay at home. Whilst initially vague in respect of children living between two households, further clarification suggests that moving children from one parent to another does fall within the exception of “Any medical need , or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person”.
Complying with ongoing arrangements or court orders should therefore be allowed providing of course it is not exposing the child to any risk of infection. On the 24th March, the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice clarified the position in this document.
Essentially, its hard enough when your relationship has broken down and you are trying to work your way through a tough family situation – and then with COVID-19, things could get worse.
There are ways you can potentially deal with the situation to avoid disputes. Our tips include:
Communicate –talk and work alongside each other to agree how the situation can be altered to fit your current situation and arrangements.
Adapt – It may be that you need to temporarily suspend your arrangements by agreement. If time with your children is lost through isolation issues, then the parent who cares for the child full time should think about making this up at later point in time. Again, early communication can help with this.
Use technology – we have a world of technology at our fingertips these days and using applications such as Skype or Facetime allows you to be flexible during these tougher times and is a great way of keeping in touch
The added strain of school closures also presents issues for parents in in employment, which my colleague Charlotte has addressed in an earlier blog: https://www.farleys.com/school-closures-and-employment-rights/
There will undoubtedly be issues where co-parents can’t agree on the best course of action. Should this be the case we would advise speaking to a professional in order to avoid putting strain on an otherwise overloaded court system. The Family Court is still working through the difficulties but are adopting novel ways of working. There is a greater emphasis on remote hearings such as by telephone, video conferencing and even email. We are therefore still able to start and progress proceedings as necessary.
For legal advice on any family or childcare matters contact Farleys’ experienced family lawyers on 0845 287 0939 or complete our online contact form and a member of the team will get in touch with you.