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Child arrangements during Covid-19

May 26th 2020

Amy Fallows Associate Solicitor in our Family Law team provides some helpful advice.

The lockdown has challenged many parents.  Home schooling and home working are difficult to combine successfully.  Not least for separating parents who are already balancing childcare between two homes.

The government made it clear:  Children can pass between parents despite the current restrictions.  It is equally clear that younger children are least vulnerable to Covid-19.  However, it is apparent from my discussions with clients that there have been a variety of approaches taken.

Some key workers have moved their children to relatives to keep them safe and both parents are only seeing them remotely.  Others have chosen the non-key worker parent to be the full time carer during restrictions.  A few have used the virus as an excuse to stop their children spending any time with the other parent, despite that parent presenting a very low risk.

Factors in Lockdown Decisions about Child Arrangements 

In any childcare decision, parental agreement is best so whatever the arrangement, an agreed arrangement is preferable to an argument.

However, if you are in a dispute about the arrangements for your children then you may wish to consider the following factors:-

  • Any decision that a court would make about a child puts that child’s welfare first.  So the first consideration is whether the proposed arrangement is in the child’s best interest.“
  • Best interests” requires a balance between physical safety and the emotional harm or distress that stopping contact could cause.  Whilst Skype or phone contact play a role, these can never replace direct contact, especially over a prolonged period.  It is unclear at this stage how long the restrictions will persist.
  • A significant consideration for many families has been the presence of a vulnerable adult in the child’s household who requires shielding.  Many families in these circumstances have stopped children seeing the other parent so they can’t “bring home” the virus.  However, if adults are going out to shops, and certainly if children go back to school, the shielding of a vulnerable adult will not necessarily mean no contact as the virus has other routes into the home.

I have read some research that suggests children under 10 cannot transport the virus but this remains unproven.  This is the scientific research that the Swiss for example have been promoting.  If it were true, it would certainly free up younger children to share households.

If you are concerned about childcare arrangements during the current restrictions or want to challenge a parent’s decision then please contact our Family Law Team on 01228 516666.  Alternatively if you would prefer to send the team an email, please click here.

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