The coronavirus lockdown in the UK has raised questions about child arrangements and separated parents. Initially, there was confusion over the rules when Michael Gove suggested that children should ‘remain in the house they’re in.’ However, he has since apologised for causing confusing. So, where do things stand?
Government guidelines for child arrangements and separated parents
Here’s what Holland Family Law understands the situation to be… children under 18 years old are allowed to move between the houses of separated parents during the coronavirus lockdown.
We’re checking in regularly with government guidelines and the latest official guidance states: “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
However, there are caveats to this guidance. If a child is classified as extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, they can remain in one household. The government has stated that separated parents should reach an agreement under these circumstances after assessing the risks of moving a vulnerable child between homes.
As family lawyers, we recommend that any alteration to typical child arrangements should be recorded in writing.
Non-agreement over child arrangements amid coronavirus
If parents are unable to agree on child arrangements, one parent, if they are concerned that following any existing child arrangements would jeopardise the child’s health and goes against the advice of Public Health services, then they can exercise parental responsibility on their own and vary arrangements to what they consider to be safe.
Should a parent act on their own in this way and they are questioned by the other parent in a Family Court, the Court will determine whether the parent assuming responsibility acted reasonably and fairly in accordance with Public Health advice.
In the event of stricter guidelines
In the event that a nationwide curfew is enforced, the government has stated that the children of separated parents, MUST remain in the home they are in at the time a curfew is initiated.
With the child unable to see the other parent in person, regular contact must be maintained through indirect means i.e. telephone or video calling via Face-Time, Whatsapp, Zoom or Skype. The parent with the child is responsible for arranging regular contact via these means.
Should a child need to self-isolate based on medical advice, then the child will need to remain with the parent they’re with at the time. While it may not be possible for one parent to verify the medical advice received by the parent with whom the child is remaining, parents should try to make sensible arrangements for the health and wellbeing of a child.