What are contact arrangements for children during national lockdown?
By Jones Myers solicitor, Lilly Grant
The second UK lockdown – which has been underway since 5th November – has understandably left many separated parents concerned over how it affects arrangements for seeing their children.
The guidance for this phase remains the same as that issued during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. It enables children under the age of 18 to move between their parents’ homes and continue to visit parents they do not live with – providing both households are healthy and children are not put at risk.
However it is vital that parents understand that, although child contact arrangements can continue during lockdown, it does not mean that children must be moved between homes.
Back in March the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, RT Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane, stressed how decisions made during the pandemic should always be in children’s best interests.
He said “It is for the child’s parents to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.”
A spirit of mutual cooperation between estranged parents is critical for the wellbeing of children who may suffer from increased anxiety and uncertainty in the current climate which can affect their behaviour.
Separated parents are urged to adopt a spirit of mutual co-operation and communicate regularly to consider how contact arrangements, including Child Arrangement Orders, can be facilitated safely to ensure their children’s wellbeing.
We also understand there are situations where effective communication is not so straightforward. Managing separation is challenging at the best of times – and times have certainly been better.
There is a lot of evidence that children can thrive in separated families. What is damaging for them is being exposed to conflict between their parents.
Mediation, where an impartial professional supports a conversation between parents, can really help to work out suitable arrangements, whilst minimising the risk of children being “caught in the crossfire”.
Jones Myers highly committed Children’s Department and family law teams are working at full strength throughout the epidemic and reacting quickly to provide urgent legal advice whenever needed.
We advise and support our clients – balancing the needs of children and their parents – in issues including residence and contact disputes, care proceedings, international child abduction and adoption.
If you have any comments, queries or concerns on children, divorce or family law related issues, call us at Leeds on 0113 246 0055, Harrogate on 01423 276104, or York on 01904 202550. Visit www.jonesmyers.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @helpwithdivorce