COVID-19 Child Arrangements for Separated Families
1 MAR 2021
The Covid-19 Pandemic and resulting Lockdown has meant that we have all had to change our arrangements to keep in touch with family members since the “Staying At Home” announcement by the Prime Minister on 23rd March 2020
Many separated families found this particularly challenging as they tried to maintain stability for children and minimise the anxieties we have all had about keeping within the rules and staying safe whilst taking into account everyone’s varying attitudes to risk.
Have a look at this advice from the specialist family lawyers at Baines Bagguley Penhale Solicitors for families in this situation:
After some initial confusion, it was confirmed that the rules allow for children under 18 whose parents do not live in the same household to move between their parent’s homes. This is an exception to the rules and it does not mean that the children must travel.
Even where there is a court order in force, where parents agree that the arrangements in the order should be temporarily varied they are free to do so. It is sensible to record such an agreement in a note, email or text message sent to each other to avoid misunderstandings.
Most children’s day to day routines have been significantly affected by the global pandemic and children are anxious about their family’s health and the future. They may have spent more time than usual with one parent home schooling or spent more time with a parent who has been working from home.
When the rules change, use this as an opportunity to review the arrangements and look at what has worked well for your children.
Try to maintain a sense of routine even when face to face visits are not possible by using video facilities like FaceTime to keep in touch or making and sending video messages.
Co-Parenting Online Resources
There are some great resources available at https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/resources-parents-carers. Cafcass stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and their website includes a Parenting Plan that you can download and save. There is an online version at www.cafcass.clickrelationships.org
A Parenting Plan is a written plan covering practical parenting issues that can help separated parents identify their expectations of each other as parents and record agreements reached. Parenting Plans are particularly helpful to refer to as circumstances change and arrangements are reviewed.
If there are issues that you are not able to resolve between you then consider using mediation or other forms of dispute resolution before applying to the court. You can contact a mediator and find out more about mediation before deciding whether it is right for you. In our experience, mediation, which is now taking place remotely by video, can give both parents an opportunity to listen to each other’s concerns and the reasons for differences of opinion which will help you address and resolve those issues.
A specialist family lawyer can support you whilst you are attending mediation and, if appropriate, attend mediation itself to support and advise you and help with the negotiations. They can also advise you on other forms of dispute resolution as well as advise you whether, as a last resort, to apply to the court or to arbitration for a decision to be made. The court are dealing with as many hearings as possible remotely, e.g. by telephone or video, but where necessary the court buildings are open and, if the judge agrees, you can attend court and speak to the judge in person.
Contact the Baines Bagguley Penhale Family Law team, solicitors Barbara Richardson and Nicola Codd, who can guide you through the options available to you and provide you with professional support and understanding to help you achieve a constructive resolution of issues in these challenging times.