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Co-parenting & Coronavirus: What are the Guidelines?

For a lot of parents, seperated or not, it’s not always plain sailing. There’s disagreements, arguments, upset and worry. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and tensions may be ever higher. With the ‘Stay Home Stay Safe’ message being spread across the world, what exactly are the guidelines around children moving between households when their parents are separated?

When Boris effectively put the country on lockdown on March 23rd, he stated that people were to only leave their house for essential travel; going to and from work (but only if you cannot work from home), for medical reasons, to shop for food and for daily exercise. He also stated that you must not have physical contact with anyone outside of your household.

For separated families with children who often move between households, this message was a cause for concern. It was later confirmed however that where parents do not live in the same households, children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ home. The terms of any childcare arrangement order you have still apply and should continue to be followed unless there’s any health risks. 

Can I just keep my child with me to keep everyone safe?

It’s okay to be worried about transporting your child to and from households, and it’s normal to feel uneasy about holding over control to the other parent during this time. That being said, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to stop contact all together. Times are difficult enough on everyone – including children. Not being able to spend time with both parents as usual could prove to be detrimental to their wellbeing. 

Of course, where there is real reason for concern such as medical issues and/or high risk individuals within either household, it’s advised not to move a child from household to household as this increases the risk of spreading. If anyone living at either home is in the most high risk group or has coronavirus symptoms, then a child should stay in one place.

What if we disagree?

Inevitably, many parents might find themselves in a conflict if one is suggesting a pause on any contact from one side. Whilst health and welfare should come above all else, one parent might have an issue with this decision despite the official health advice. If they don’t agree with the decision, they can challenge it. Mediation services are an option and if the issue is taken to Family Court, it’ll be up to the Court to decide whether that parent acted ‘sensibly and reasonably’ in light of government advice and their specific circumstances.

Even if physical contact is restricted or paused, contact should never be stopped completely. Apps like Whatsapp, FaceTime, Skype and Zoom are pulling families all over the country through right now and failing that, picking up the phone to chat. Understand that parents who can’t see their children are going to be struggling. Encourage this kind of communication as much as you can. Perhaps you could set up a virtual dinner for your child and co-parent? Or arrange some sort of game and quiz they could partake in together over the phone? It’s really important to keep everyone connected right now.

If it’s possible, perhaps share childcare between alternate weeks. It’s a good idea to keep movement to a minimum and this way, each parent gets the same amount of time and your child can settle in one place for a little longer. It’s important to find something that works for all parties. ‘Lockdown’ is difficult for everybody, let’s not make it more so.

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