Can my children visit me during lockdown?
Initially, it was unclear whether a child moving between parents’ houses would be included as an authorised purpose. However, the Government has updated its guidance to confirm that children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ houses. This was confirmed by Michael Gove on twitter after his confusing message television.
As such, providing that no-one in either household is showing symptoms then child arrangements should continue as normal and parents are permitted to travel between each other’s houses to facilitate this.
Does the child arrangements order still apply?
The terms of your child arrangement order will still apply and should be complied with unless this presents a risk to the child or children or another person.
Child Arrangement Orders (and other agreements made between parents) tend to set out the arrangements during term time and then separate arrangements for school holidays. However, the situation we find ourselves in now fits into neither of those categories.
Fortunately, it will be up to the parents to decide together, how the children will spend their time if their schools are closed. These are not school holidays as such, and it is likely that many children will still have schoolwork to complete. Therefore, a good structure and routine will be important to children during this unsettling time. On this basis, parents may decide that their existing term-time arrangements should continue to ensure stability for the children which is needed through this unprecedented time.
The Family Court has emphasised that parents should communicate their concerns openly with one another during this difficult time. Where parents agree as to the best course of action, they are free to vary the child arrangement if they feel it is necessary. The Court recommends that parents should keep a written record of any such agreement.
What If Someone Has Coronavirus Symptoms?
A common-sense approach must prevail. Clearly, it would not be in a child’s interests to spend time with a parent who has developed symptoms.
In addition, a child who is showing symptoms should not be expected to travel to another parent’s house and potentially spread the virus further. Health must come first during this pandemic.
Similarly, if your child needs to self-isolate because they are classed as a vulnerable person, then parents will be expected to be flexible in this regard. Clearly, a child’s health should take priority in this situation, despite the fact that could mean that parents go many weeks, or months, without any physical contact. A positive to this is that it does not say that indirect contact cannot continue.
It is in the child’s best interest to have contact with both parents unless there is evidence to the contrary. In the modern world we live in, there are a whole host of ways that parents and children can stay in contact. This includes Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp video and other video calling software. As well as telephone calls, emails, and text messages.
During this tough time, it is all about changing a bad situation into a good one.
I Can’t Reach an Agreement with the Other Parent
Ultimately, parents will know themselves what is in the best interests of their individual children and how they can best help their children through these uncertain times.
The Family Court’s guidance reminds parents that they have parental responsibility for their children, not the Court. It goes on to state that if parents are unable to agree arrangements, one parent can vary the order unilaterally if they are sufficiently concerned that complying with the Child Arrangement Order goes against government health advice. This might be the case for example if a parent considers their child is vulnerable due to a health condition.
It goes without saying always try and reach an agreement with the other parent, as the children are suffering enough with the lack of time they spend with their friends, not going to school and they may also be upset at the fact that they are unable to see their other parent. The welfare of the child or children is paramount decide based on what they would like instead of ‘point scoring’.