Childcare arrangements and social distancing

With the government advising us to follow social distancing guidelines wherever possible, is this causing pressure on families with separated parents?

Social distancing is challenging for everyone, particularly for parents who have separated and the obstacles may face with continuing on going childcare arrangements.

There are several potential problems that could arise such as:

  • A parent who is caring for a child is required to self-isolate and therefore is unable to take a child to the other parent. Under current guidance, the child will also be required to self-isolate with that parent for up to 14 days.
  • A child develops symptoms while with a parent for the weekend and may have to remain in self-isolation with that parent when normally they would return to the other parent.
  • Children may become too unwell to visit their other parent.

Avoiding disputes between parents/guardians

There are several ways of dealing with these challenges that could avoid a potential dispute and guidance has been set out by CAFCAS some of which include;

  • Unless there are justified medical/self-isolation issues – or some other national issued guidance or expectation associated with leaving the house in your area – children should maintain their usual routine of spending time with each of their parents. If there is a child arrangement order this should be complied with unless to do so would put your child or others at risk.
  • Early honest communication with your former partner to agree a variation to your arrangements.
  • Suspending the arrangements by agreement. If time is lost the parent who normally cares for the child should consider offering to ‘make up’ the time at a later date. Remember any rearranged spending time arrangement should always be for the child’s benefit.
  • Consider the use of technology to offer alternatives such as FaceTime or Skype or telephone calls. Think creatively about how to support your child to stay in touch.
  • Be extra vigilant at this time to make sure that children don’t hear discussions about a court case or any dispute. This is particularly relevant with the added worry and stress the pandemic brings.
  • Follow carefully all the government guidelines on social distancing, hand washing and sensible hygiene.

These are just a few points for separated couples who, like the rest of the world, face an uncertain situation with a direct impact on their lives.

Parents exploiting Covid-19 could face court action

A statement made by Head of the family courts Sir Andrew McFarlane suggested that children should continue to visit parents they do not live with, as long as both households are healthy. However, the government guidelines should not be exploited in order to stop a parent from visiting/accessing their child.

The guidance from the courts for parents who live apart suggests that children under the age of 18 can be moved between homes after an assessment that they are not being put at risk. If a parent is ignoring child court orders, then the other parent may have the right to pursue legal action.

Unfortunately for some parents, trust and communication have broken down, and any conversations regarding child visits can seem impossible.

Free review of existing child arrangements

Donnelly & Elliott’s specialist family law team has extensive experience in dealing with issues around child arrangements. If you have concerns about your circumstances, Donnelly & Elliott offer a free review of your existing child arrangements and court orders that may be in place.

Given the current social distancing measures, we can provide advice by various means including email, telephone or video call in order to help you.

Contact us today on 02392 50 55 00 or email