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Child Arrangements and Coronavirus

Blog1st August 2020

Dealing with shared parenting and children visits to your ex-partner is not easy – and the coronavirus has created new problems. The most important thing is to continue trying to look after your child’s best interests.

Nicola Chamberlain, Partner and Head of our Family Team, answers some common questions on how child arrangements are being affected by the coronavirus and the government’s rules on staying at home.

Can my child still spend part of their time with each parent?

Yes, government guidance says that a child can travel from one parent’s home to visit or stay with the other parent. You can continue the shared parenting arrangements you had before the coronavirus epidemic, whether they were informally agreed between you or are covered by a child arrangements order.

That does not mean that you have to keep to the same arrangements. For example, there may be practical problems – because of school closures, lack of child care, transport difficulties and changes to working lives. If possible, you should discuss any concerns or difficulties with your ex. Try to agree what is best for your child and works for both of you.

If there is a child arrangements order from the court, you can agree to change it without going back to court. The important thing is to follow the spirit of the order, even if you change some of the details.

If you do make changes, it’s best to make sure there is a written record. Send your ex a text or email confirming what you have agreed.

I’m worried that my child might catch coronavirus when visiting my ex, what can I do?

It is natural to worry about your child, particularly if you think that a visit might put them at extra risk – for example, if your ex is a key worker who is more likely to be exposed to the coronavirus.

It is best if you can discuss your worries with your ex. There may be some practical steps you can both take to help reduce the risk – for example, making sure you are all following government guidance on social distancing and washing your hands frequently.

Another option might be to consider reducing the frequency of visits, so that there is less travel and fewer opportunities for the virus to pass from one household to the other. If you are going to restrict visits, look at alternatives for helping your child stay in touch with the other parent. Online video calls can be a good option.

If you really feel the arrangements are not safe, you can decide to make changes – even without the other parent’s agreement. You need to be prepared to justify your decision if your ex takes legal action. Ask yourself whether you are being reasonable and acting in your child’s best interests.

What happens about visits if someone in our house has coronavirus symptoms?

If you, your child or anyone else who lives with you has symptoms, you must follow the government’s advice on self-isolation. That means that:

  • Whoever first starts showing symptoms must stay at home for at least seven days, and until they feel better and have a normal temperature.
  • Everyone else in the house must stay at home for at least 14 days. If they start showing symptoms of coronavirus, they must stay at home for at least seven days from their first symptoms.

Any visits will need to be cancelled while the household is self-isolating.

My ex is being unreasonable and won’t let our child visit me during the lockdown, what can I do?

The over-riding principle is for you both to act in your child’s best interests.

If your ex is genuinely concerned about your child’s safety, one option is to accept the decision even though you find it upsetting. Keeping in touch with your child online may not be ideal, but could be better than endless arguments. Bear in mind that the current situation is stressful for everyone. Try to avoid involving your child in your disagreements or having them overheard.

Alternatively, a letter from your lawyer or professional mediation might help you resolve the situation. Court action should be a last resort, unless you think your child is at risk.