Many parents are in shared child care arrangements of some kind with their ex- spouses/partners. These consist of a variety of different arrangements. Maybe you all live near each other and time with the children is divided equally. Maybe the children spend the majority of the time with one parent and visit the other regularly. Alternatively you may live some distance from each other and arrangements to see the children involve a fair amount of travelling. Whatever your arrangement the current crisis will mean that the status quo may not be possible or may have to be a little (or a lot) more flexible.
In these unprecedented times parents will have huge concerns about adhering to child arrangements, what will happen if they need to self-isolate or if they or their children are vulnerable so need to quarantine themselves. Handovers will also need to be thought out slightly differently with the guidance changing on a daily basis and cafes, restaurants, schools and open spaces closing and the need for social distancing.
Below are our top 10 tips for co-parenting in these immensely challenging and anxious times for families:
- Communication and co-operation are key! You both share joint responsibility of your children and difficulties must be put to the side to get through these extraordinary times. Government guidance confirms that as of 24 March 2020 where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes. Be realistic and make these handovers as smooth and safe as possible for you and your family.
- Whilst everyone remains healthy and is working from home, think of practical ways to assist each other with the children. This could be the sharing of certain lessons remotely, exercising with the children or taking them out for a walk.
- Children will need a joint effort from you both in terms of how to deal with the change to remote studying. Some lessons will be harder than others. It is a long time until July!
- Fixed arrangements between you may have to change given remote working. Be flexible and fit in with each other.
- If one of you gets symptoms this will have a knock on effect on child arrangements. Sensible changes will have to be accommodated for the 7/14 days with time made up after the isolation period has passed. Private testing may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis particularly where the parties have trust issues.
- While people with symptoms are simply told to self-isolate this may be used dishonestly to stop the other parent from spending time with the children, with no obvious repercussions. Not a good idea at all! You may be cross examined on this point later and this is very important to bear in mind.
- Assist each other if there are meetings that have to be scheduled remotely meaning childcare becomes difficult during those times. The other parent can step in. Try and co-ordinate work diary commitments using family calendar sharing apps.
- Not being able to call upon grandparents or other elderly or vulnerable relatives will be tough – they may be able to assist remotely in some way with lessons, virtual games, entertainment and bedtime stories.
- If one party needs to self-isolate be creative in making sure that they have contact with the children using things like Facetime, Skype and games online to interact. These are extraordinary times and the situation may go on for months so you will need all the help you can get and it is important that regular contact with both parents continues where it can.
- If there are certain court orders that need to be varied to ensure a practical and safe way forward over the next few months try and agree a variation between you or do so with the assistance of a mediator or a solicitor. Sadly there will be times when agreements are unable to be reached, please contact us for advice and we will be able to assist you in these unprecedented times.
If you would like to discuss any child-related matters with us please contact Tanya Roberts or Laura Burrows.