If you co-parent, you may be wondering how the Coronavirus restrictions affect you and your child arrangements with your ex-partner. Child arrangements determine which parent your child stays with and for how long. It also covers visits to the other co-parent, including overnight stays. The arrangements don’t have to be formalised in a court order, they can also be informal if they are agreed by both parents.
Currently, despite the lock-down, the Government guidance is that co-parents can still move their children between each other’s houses as necessary to keep their child arrangements.
If you are not having any issues, then you should continue as normal with your child arrangements, however you may find that the Government guidance on self-isolation means you cannot, and sometimes an alternative is not easily agreed.
Changing your child arrangements
If you need to change the arrangements and both parents are in agreement, then you can agree to vary the Court Order. Furthermore, you don’t need to formally vary the court order, the court would accept that you simply agreed the changes amongst yourselves.
If your Court Order or arrangements are based on timings such as the school day and term times, then you could replicate those patterns, or you may want to agree on new definitions/alternatives. For example, if one parent normally collects the child from school, and you both agree, then they could collect your child from your home instead.
If you can’t agree on a variation then the original Court Order continues, unless either you or your co-parent could not physically look after your child due to illness. It’s important to remember that the Court will always put the child’s wellbeing first, above any parental rights each co-parent will have.
If your child normally stays with you, but you are ill from Coronavirus, then you could agree that your child temporarily stays with your co-parent. Your co-parent and your child would then need to self-isolate for 14 days following Government guidance, having been in contact with you.
Keeping in contact
If either co-parent is self-isolating then you should where possible use the phone and video chat like FaceTime, Zoom or Skype to keep the child in contact with each co-parent.
Social distancing rules may make it impossible to see extended family who do not live in your or your co-parent’s households. It’s important that you explain to your child why this is happening and try to keep in contact using phones and technology.
While the schools are closed to the majority of students, the children of “key workers” (such as NHS staff, supermarket staff, police and delivery drivers) can attend school if needed. If your co-parent is a “key worker” and you can easily work from home, then you may prefer your child to stay with you, rather than send them to school, to avoid exposure to Coronavirus. This must be agreed with your co-parent or whoever has parental responsibility.
If your child lives with your “key worker” ex-partner, but they are working longer shifts and the child would be alone at home after school hours, then that may be considered by the court as a risk to the welfare of your child. You should seek Family Law advice if you find yourself in this situation and you cannot come to an agreement with your co-parent. If the co-parent can manage to work during school hours then it would not be a risk to your child’s welfare because being at school is within the current Government guidelines.
While the schools are closed, whether you need to continue paying your school fees will depend on your contract with your school. Whether you are eligible for any reimbursements or refunds, may be affected by how much remote home learning support you are receiving from the school. You should also speak to your insurance company in case you are covered, or if you have school fee insurance.
You can contact the Family Law team at Tees [https://www.teeslaw.com/home-life/families-and-divorce/] if you would like any advice during this stressful time.
When the Government change their guidelines and life returns to normal you can revert back to your original child arrangements.