COVID-19 and the impact on children with separated parents.

For the majority of separated parents with children there is an arrangement in place which deals with how they have contact with their children. On occasion there is co-parenting where the time is split evenly but, for the most part, there will be a primary carer with whom the children live for most of the time and a non-resident carer who they see less frequently. No matter what time a parent has with their child that time is precious. The pandemic of COVID-19 and the government’s restriction on travel has the potential to create great difficulties with agreed arrangements. Some of the contact arrangements will be on foot of a court order and a parent may be worried of the potential consequences of not adhering to that order.

The children are the most important people in this arrangement and so any squabbles between parents should be put to one side. A court will always tell parents that communication is key and, with today’s technology, there are so many ways this can be done (Skype, Facetime, text, calls). It is important for the children to keep in touch with the other parent if they cannot get to see that parent.

As per government guidelines, everyone must practice social distancing. If a child lives with a primary carer in a family then it clearly does not make sense to drive that child to another family in a different part of the country and therefore increasing the chance of exposure to the child. Similarly, the primary carer must look at the environment which they are living in and if the child would be better off with the non-resident parent then this needs to be seriously considered.

In the absence of any guidance on this from the court it is likely that any “breach” of a court order will not be enforced as the court will look at the situation very sympathetically. Parents need to communicate sensibly and immediately because no-one knows if or when they could become ill and the sick parent will have to rely on the help of the other parent.

This is a time to show maturity and understanding.

If you require advice in relation to any family law matter, please contact Enda Lavery on enda.lavery@mtb-law.co.uk.