A Lockdown lottery: who cares for the children?
As we wake up this morning to real restrictions on our movement – who is to look after the children?
Can children move between homes to see their parents who are separated or divorced? Or do they stay put? What then?
The Government has issued guidance.
More particularly, “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
Michael Gove MP was on Good Morning Britain saying that children cannot move between homes to see their parents in terms of care. He said children should remain in their present home.
This is wrong and has since been clarified by him when he returned to Good Morning Britain shortly after his original statement.
However, there is a balance between the movement of people (including children) to limit the spread of COVID-19 but at the same time the need to promote a child’s welfare.
The test, from a family law perspective, is to always act in a child’s best interests.
These are very difficult and challenging times for everyone. There is also so much change.
Clearly, it is important for a child’s present and future wellbeing that there is a loving and meaningful relationship between both parents (and extended families). How is this going to happen now in practice and it is unclear how long the restriction on movement will be in force for – 3 weeks or more?
A child needs stability and routine. So, it is important for parents to think carefully about this and how they can promote and develop a child’s relationship between households and to ensure safety. There may also be twists and turns: what happens if one households show symptoms of the virus?
I think families will have to be sophisticated and whilst performing the difficult balance between movement to promote care as against limiting the spread of virus. This may involve the use of video facilities for those that can; and planning around this, to include frequency, durations etc.. This is all going to be case specific – a real difference, for example, between a 4 and a 14 year old child on how this can be achieved.
This does not ignore the need and importance of quality time between parents and homes; together with the patterns of time with parents the child may have been used but adapt to these circumstances. How will this child feel? What type of fear or anxiety may he or she be feeling today – worrying about when they will see their other parent?
There may also be court orders in place. Does a parent potentially put themselves in breach of a court order and risk of enforcement and/or should they apply back to court to vary an order? A parent should not use this situation to breach a court order – family law advice is needed.
This is an ever evolving and changing situation. I think the first step is try and agree child arrangements with the other parent but if you cannot then the next step is to seek your own independent legal advice from a solicitor. We are specialists in this area and have a team of solicitors who can help and provide guidance to help you promote your child’s welfare.