The pandemic and lockdown has affected everyone. Parents living in different houses have had to deal with great uncertainty.
Following the government’s announcement on March 23, 2020 the UK has been placed into an enforced lockdown. This introduced a host of restrictions on daily activity in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, which leads to COVID-19 — a disease currently sweeping the globe. In such unusual times, many people are understandably questioning what they can and can’t do.
Currently, lockdown measures are being relaxed slightly. People should only travel to and from work where it is necessary and when they are unable to work from home, and they can only travel to visit somebody else if they are vulnerable and need support. Citizens should only shop for essentials, which should be done as infrequently as possible, and online deliveries should be chosen if the option is available. Originally, you were allowed to leave the house for exercise only in a close area and for up to one hour per day, but this rule has been relaxed to include short travel for unlimited exercise. It’s possible to meet up with a friend or relative outdoors, but strict social distancing should be adhered to.
When the restrictions were announced, many separated parents were understandably concerned about what that would mean for their children. So, what should you do if your kids spend time with both parents?
How Do the Guidelines Affect Co-Parents?
While the guidelines were quite clear on what the government is hoping to achieve, there were some questions raised about what it would mean for families in specific circumstances. If parents have agreed in the terms of their custody agreement to have shared custody of their children, including allotted time spent in either home, should this be continued?
Initially, it was suggested that children should avoid travelling between different households during the lockdown, which inevitably concerned parents who only spend a limited amount of time with their children under their current arrangements. This was later retracted by Michael Gove, who tweeted that where necessary, children under the age of 18 can move between separated parents.
What Steps Should Parents Take Right Now?
It’s clear to see that during this time, cooperation and communication are more important than ever when it comes to co-parenting. While it’s important to maintain current custody arrangements as much as possible, parents should be prepared to be flexible and pragmatic when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of their kids. For example, it might be necessary for a child to stay with each parent for a longer period of time in order to limit the movement of kids between households, and if handovers tend to occur at school or another public area, alternative arrangements might be necessary.
It’s also worth noting that since many parents will be off work or working from home during the lockdown, this is an opportunity for parents to spend some quality time with their kids. Most importantly, parents need to work together to ensure a clear, consistent routine for their child right now.
What if a Child or Parent is Displaying COVID-19 Symptoms?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include a new continuous cough and a high temperature. The guidelines state that if you or a member of your household develops any of these symptoms, you should all self-isolate at home for a 14-day period, which means no leaving the home in any circumstances unless it is an absolute emergency. If a child or parent begins to develop symptoms, safety should always be the top priority and during this time, the child will need to stay in the household that they were at when the symptoms developed. Co-parents might find that they need to take on another role in this instance. While they will not be able to see their child for two weeks, there is plenty that they can do, such as offering love and support over video calls or helping the other household out by picking up essential supplies to leave at the door.
Keeping Things as Normal as Possible
Kids tend to thrive better when they are sticking to a predictable and consistent routine, so during this time of isolation, the best advice for families is that they try to function with a degree of normality when possible. Parents who are considered key workers will still be able to take their children to school, and parents who are furloughed or working from home will need to consider which activities are permissible under the restrictions in order to ensure that their family maintains their health and wellbeing. Kids will benefit from getting plenty of physical activity and fresh air right now, so spend some time going on family walks, runs and bike rides while keeping a 2-metre distance from others.
What to Do if You Need Advice
There are many potential instances where you may need advice as a co-parent during this lockdown period. It’s a misconception that family solicitors are only required when a hostile environment arises between parents and families during a relationship break down. That is not the case. If you are concerned about making adjustments to your custody arrangement during this time, or want legal advice on what to do if your child is displaying symptoms but the other parent still wants to spend time with them as per their custody agreement, finding good family law solicitors can help.
The role of family law solicitors is to prevent breakdowns in families and they will be able to offer guidance and even mediation over the phone or on a video call if necessary, to ensure that things continue to run as smoothly as possible for you and your child.
Lockdown has been essential for all of us to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and stay safe, but for families who share custody of children, it has brought a lot of questions and potential issues. First and foremost should always be the safety and wellbeing of your child. If you need help, you should reach out for it.