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UPDATE: Government confirms under-18s can still move between homes as part of child arrangement orders

*** UPDATE 24th March 2020 ***

The Government has now confirmed that under-18s who are subject to child arrangement orders are still permitted to move between homes, despite the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The full lockdown, which was announced on March 23rd, did not initially include detail about whether or not it would apply to families living with child arrangement orders, but that has now been clarified and it is fine for children to see both parents as per their existing arrangements.

Browell Smith & Co had been contacted by many parents concerned about what the lockdown meant for their child arrangements: these families now have reassurance that no laws will be broken if they stick to those arrangements.

In our original blog post, below, we did advise that people took a sensible approach and continued to follow Government health guidelines, especially if any member of either household was displaying any symptoms of Covid-19 infection, and even more so if there were any vulnerable members of the family in either household.

Original article:

In a very short space of time, the deadly Covid-19 pandemic has devastated our daily lives. These are unprecedented times and people all over the world are encountering issues that would have seemed impossible just two months ago.

While the absolute priority is public health, and keeping our families and those around us safe, that has created further challenges as people start working from home and/or self-isolating to limit the spread of the virus.

With schools and nurseries being closed to almost all pupils from 20th March and increasing numbers of people working from home and social distancing, the issue of how to care for children at home is one such challenge.

It’s more complicated still for divorced or separated parents who have pre-existing child arrangements in place, which require children to spend time in different households.

Browell Smith & Co has been contacted by a number of people to give advice on how to handle child arrangements in light of the spread of Coronavirus, and especially when they are sick and/or self-isolating. There is certainly no precedent in case law for dealing with child arrangements during a pandemic of this scale and severity.

Negotiating child arrangements while self-isolating

The purpose of self-isolation is explained in the advice given by the Government and it should be taken incredibly seriously. If you are self-isolating because you are showing symptoms, then we strongly recommend you continue to do so – even if your symptoms are relatively mild, self-isolating could literally save lives.

However, it should be ok to continue with child arrangements if each person is willing to personally self-isolate, and not come into contact with anybody else.

Bear in mind that doing this can affect the wider family, too – anyone else in the affected households should also isolate themselves. If there are people in those houses who are continuing to have to work, such as frontline health workers, then we would urge people to reconsider and put child arrangements on hold until the situation develops.

Above all, we would urge people to take a common-sense approach. This situation could yet go on for months.

Bear in mind that symptoms might not be showing today, but people can be infectious before they show symptoms. An apparently healthy person today could have a fever and cough tomorrow, so don’t take good health for granted.

Also consider using technology to maintain contact – conversations on the phone, or by Skype/Facetime etc, if a child needs to be isolated with one parent. This could be the most practical solution, especially if there are older/vulnerable relatives in either household whose health needs must be prioritised.

In short:

  • You are still permitted to stick to your child arrangement orders
  • If you show symptoms, follow Government advice – it is designed to save lives
  • If you have symptoms but still want to respect child arrangements, then be communicative and sensible. If everyone agrees, you can still go ahead – but everyone involved must self-isolate too.
  • Consider the impact on the wider household, who would all need to self-isolate as well
  • Vulnerable, elderly or at-risk family members’ health must be the priority
  • Use technology such as Skype or Facetime as an alternative way to maintain contact during isolation.

The most important thing is to look after yourselves, your families and everyone else in society. Remember these measures have been put into place to save lives, so don’t take unnecessary risks.

Contact our expert team today to arrange a no-obligation chat at any of our offices, in Newcastle, Cramlington, Ashington and Sunderland, or alternatively telephone our team directly on  0191 691 3418 to discuss your particular requirements.

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