In this time of upheaval, the most important thing is to provide a safe environment for your children, while staying within the law. Solicitors Couchman Hanson have this useful guide to co-parenting during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Parents sharing contact time with their children will find this time even more difficult, but with a little forethought and flexibility, they will be able to get through it. Here is our five-point guide to making co-parenting work during the COVID-19 lockdown.
1 – Stay within the law
While you are not permitted to leave the house except in certain essential circumstances, it was clarified straight after the lockdown was announced that children under-18 can move between their parents’ homes, when their parents do not live in the same household.
Where there are court orders that set out contact arrangements, parents can agree to vary them to take account of the lockdown. Where parents do not agree, one parent can alter the arrangements on the grounds of safety. However, the parent must understand that if evaluated at a later date by the Family Court, their actions could be viewed dimly.
The critical message is that if you can’t keep to the letter of your Child Arrangements Order, you must try your best to keep to the spirit of it.
Of course, not every set of parents has a court order. They may be working their way through the divorce process. For the best outcomes, try to follow these guidelines.
2 – Communicate
Communication between co-parents is imperative during this stressful time. It will be impossible to get through it without open dialogue. There has never been a better time to put your other differences to one side and make plans in your children’s interests.
Talk about what you can both do when it comes to contact arrangements. If moving your children between households isn’t possible, explain why. Talk about other ways you can spend time with your children if you can’t have them in your home.
You must also agree on arrangements around home-schooling; boundaries for where they should and should not go when they are at the other co-parent’s home, as well as who else they can see.
3 – Stay in touch
This is the age when technology has come into its own, alleviating the anxiety of not being in contact. Parents will be worried about their children, more than ever before.
Use tools such as Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp, so your children can see their other parent. Be open to allowing video calls every day. After all, we’ve all got a lot of time on our hands now.
4 – Be flexible
During the lockdown, it’s important to understand that you might not be able to get everything you want with regards to time with your children. You may not even be able to get everything you have previously agreed to with your ex-partner. You must also think about the toll this is taking on your children. If you take a flexible approach, life will be a little less stressful, for you and your children.
Look at the time you do spend together as quality time, with no pressure to go out or do anything. Hopefully, the lockdown will not last too long. Try and make it an experience.
5 – Stay safe
Perhaps most importantly, make sure you follow all the government guidelines on staying healthy during the Coronavirus outbreak. Stay inside; look after each other; don’t take risks. If someone in your household starts to show symptoms, isolate.
The goal of the lockdown is to stop the virus being from transferred between people. While it’s natural that you want to spend time with your children, think about what you could be bringing into your home, or sending out to your ex-partner’s home.
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No one is saying this lockdown is going to be easy. However, with a bit of flexibility, communication and common sense, we can all get through it.
These five points are only guidelines. Also, everyone’s circumstances will be different. If you’re concerned about your individual situation regarding your family under lockdown, it’s a good idea to get legal advice.