What does UK Lockdown mean for separated parents?
Last night the Prime Minister announced that with immediate effect the UK public were to stay at home for a minimum period of 3 weeks saves as for 4 exceptional circumstances namely;
• Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
• One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.
• Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
• Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.
Whilst on the face of it, the above reasons are unambiguous and provide clear instructions to the British public, they undoubtedly raise many questions about what does and does not fall within one of those 4 exceptions.
As a family lawyer, I anticipate that the most common question that I will be asked by clients is “what happens to the child care arrangements I have with my ex-partner?”
Whilst this question was not specifically addressed in the PM’s speech nor did it appear in the headlines, there is provision relating to the movement of children in the Government’s written rules on staying at home and away from others.
It states that a person may leave the house for “Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.” “ Where applicable, this includes moving children under 18 between their parents’ homes.”
Therefore those separated parents who have an existing child care arrangement in place whether informal or by court order, should ensure that those arrangements remain in place to allow a child to continue to have quality time with each parent at their respective homes.
This will be fairly straightforward for those parents who have an arrangement that involves a child spending time at each parents’ home however I envisage difficulties in facilitating child care in other scenarios such as:
– supervised contact away from the family home such as a contact centre;
– contact arrangements with grandparents and other family members
– handover arrangements at public places such as community centres which are now to closed.
Specialist advice should be taken if you are at all unsure about whether or not you should continue the existing child care arrangements, agree some adjustments to those arrangements such as a different handover location or suspend the arrangements completely until further guidance from the government.
If you have any concerns about the issue of child care between you and your ex-partner, our family law team would be happy to assist. Please email your query to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note this is intended as information and not advice and is applicable as at 24th March 2020 and subject to change.