The Government have issued new guidance for separated parents that “where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between the parents’ homes”. This means separated parents can continue to share childcare during the Stay at Home policy when safe to do so.
If either household is self-isolating, due to anyone having viral symptoms or being a vulnerable person, shared care will not be possible. Children cannot have direct contact with Grandparents or any relatives outside the home. This must be observed even if it means failing to adhere to a Child Arrangements Order as ordered by the Court. The Court expect Child Arrangements Orders to be followed as closely as possible but appreciate that flexibility in arrangements may be required.
Where shared care will continue, handovers should be done at the home. If the handover must be done in public, then social distancing should be practised. A supermarket carpark for example, parked away from other cars, is a well-suited location.
Most separated parents have different childcare arrangements for term time and school holidays. It will be for parents to decide the most appropriate arrangement during this period. Existing term time arrangements can be better to ensure stability for the child. However, as there will be other considerations such as parental work arrangements, school holiday arrangements may be more appropriate. Parents should use common sense but consider the child’s best interests as the primary consideration and must ensure they adhere to Government policy.
In many cases, the child will have to live in one household for the duration of this period. This will not affect the “status quo” in respect of determining long-term arrangements. In this case, it is important to facilitate as much indirect contact as possible with the other parent, such as through Facetime or Skype calls. If indirect contact is regulated by a Child Arrangements Order, it will likely be in the child’s best interests to allow for increased or unlimited phone contact to account for the lack of direct contact. It can be a great idea for the non-resident parent to help with the child’s home learning on video call, such as teaching them a lesson on Facetime or reading them a bedtime story.
Home schooling may be difficult for separated parents to manage and you should consult the child’s school for resources to assist. Starting a project with the children can encourage creativity. Playing outside with children, providing it is possible to observe social distancing, can be a great way to manage hygiene with less contaminated surfaces. Online resources and YouTube are great ways to learn. School recommended resources include BBC Learning, Futurelearn, Scratch or Scholastic.