Child Arrangements During Covid-19

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The government issued guidance, which basically told everyone to stay at home.

Michael Gove then told the nation ‘stay at home, children too’. (Precis!)

Michael Gove later said he hadn’t been clear enough and said ‘children can move between their parents houses’.

In actual fact, Michael Gove had been abundantly clear the first time around – he had interpreted the PM’s words exactly as they appeared in the public address on 23rd March 2020 – ‘stay at home, don’t have contact with anyone who does not live with you, including family’. That’s a fairly clear statement. He should just have said ‘my information was incorrect, sorry, here’s the accurate interpretation’. What is it with politicians and their inability to accept they got something wrong?

The reality is that some children have their homes in separate places and as of necessity, or by court order, they have to move between the two homes. Court orders have to be followed – unless the parents agree together a different route. So the first point with all of this is to have a discussion with the other parent to see what their thoughts and feelings are about contact continuing during this pandemic. Find out their fears, their worries, concerns and do your best to allay them.

Sensible parents might decide, for their children’s wellbeing and immediate safety, to agree to them staying in one place whilst the lockdown is in place. Missed time with the other parent can be made up when the panic is over. Phone or video calls can be made to keep in contact, creativeness can be employed to engage with children living in another household, such as playing games via video calls, jointly having a movie night in separate homes with a video call ongoing for chat and laughter…the possibilities are endless. Not ideal, but definitely not the end of the world either.

Less sensible parents, or those of the persuasian that their own needs and interests come first, are likely to continue to insist on having their children to stay. This is fine if you and your children are healthy and not in high risk groups – or there are no high risk groups in either household. But if there are high risk individuals in either household, you really need to think twice about whether your insistence on contact going ahead is about the best interests of your child, or whether you are being self-serving.

If your children come once a fortnight overnight or for the weekend, have another think – can you really not manage with some of the above creative suggestions for a few weeks?

It is obviously different if you generally have 50/50 care, or if you’re a keyworker and need to be at work and the other parent normally provides childcare. Again, this is about the parents jointly making sensible decisions about THEIR children.

To be clear, even in these uncertain times, when there is the certainty of a court order, you as parents still have the choice to change whatever is in that court order.

A court order is only binding on you whilst you can’t agree. The moment the two of you can agree alternative/different arrangements, you can forget about the court order. It’s there to make a decision when the two of you are at odds.

Be sure to get the court order varied if you come to another agreement though!

In conclusion, at this present time, the government are saying that where there is a child arrangements order in place that the arrangements must continue in the absence of agreement between the parents to do something different.

Do something different – think about your children and only stick to the order when you can’t agree to do something that may be more favourable to your child’s long term interests.

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