Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 23rd March 2020 many parents will be left wondering where this leaves them in relation to the arrangements for them to see their children. It is important that children are able to maintain a relationship with both their parents notwithstanding that they may not be living in the same household.
However, if either your child or anyone in your household, or indeed in the other parent’s household, is suffering from any symptoms then it goes without saying that the arrangements for the children to see their other parent should not take place. However, in circumstances such as these, it is extremely important that the children are still able to maintain that relationship. Fortunately, we now live in a world where we can communicate far more virtually than we would have been able to 10 years ago. Therefore, speak to the other parent and arrange a time for your child to Skype or Facetime. You may find that arrangements such as the other parent reading your child a bedtime story may be a useful way to enable them to keep in touch, or by playing games or helping with school work.
What is important during this time is that parents communicate. It is more important now than at any other time that parents put aside their feelings and concentrate on what is in the best interests of their children.
CAFCASS recently released guidance for how to navigate these unprecedented times that we are currently living in. They advise that it is important to maintain a sense of routine during this time in order to help your child feel safe and secure. Although they may not be attending school it is important that they still follow their routine such as normal meal times etc including seeing their other parent as much as possible.
In a recent interview, on 24th March 2020, Michael Gove indicated that children under the age of 18 can spend time with both of their parents. Indeed, clarifying the government’s position on Twitter, Michael Gove indicated “to confirm – while children should not normally be moving between households, we recognise that this may be necessary when children who are under 18 move between separated parents. This is permissible and has been made clear in the guidance” Although this establishes an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirement, the decision as to whether a child should move between homes is for the parents to decide after consideration of all the circumstances including the child’s health, risk of infection and whether there are any vulnerable adults in the household.
Notwithstanding all of this, we recognise that it is difficult for all parents at this time and there cannot be a set of rules to fit all. What is clear is that parents need to ensure that they communicate with each other. This is not a time for either parent to argue but to work together for the benefit of their children.
It is also important that parents are extra vigilant in ensuring that children cannot hear any conversations you may have regarding any ongoing court cases or disputes. There may well be court hearings that might take place via teleconference and exposing the children to these disputes can leave them feeling confused and having divided loyalties. It is therefore important that any conversations that you have about your child with the other parent take place in a room where the children cannot be exposed to any potential conflict. Similarly, if you are attending a hearing by teleconference, this should take place in a room where as far as possible the children are not able to hear.
At Stone King we recognise that this is a confusing and unsettling time for all and therefore we are committed to being there for all of our clients during this pandemic.