The third national lockdown – forced by a surge in the new variant of Covid-19 – will no doubt further increase logistical and practical challenges for parents who are divorced or separated.
Estranged parents are understandably concerned about arrangements for seeing their children after schools and colleges in England have been shut until at least half term and A-Levels and GCSEs cancelled.
Restrictions mean everyone must stay at home except those who cannot work from home. Leaving the house is only permitted for specified reasons including essential shopping, medical assistance and exercise.
Children under 18 whose parents are separated can still continue to visit parents they do not live with – providing both households are healthy and children are not put at risk.
Support and child care bubbles can remain the same but, as with previous lockdowns, children and their parents cannot mix with people (either indoors or outdoors) outside their parents’ households.
The latest school closures will no doubt be very difficult for separated parents who will need to ensure their children can participate in remote learning – regardless of whose home they are in throughout the week.
Children of key workers will be entitled to school provision and nursery school children can access Early Years childcare which will remain open. It is vital that separated parents communicate regularly and are flexible regarding their usual child contact arrangements to enable each parent to continue to work.
The guidance from the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, RT Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane back in March 2020 remains as relevant now as it was then. “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.”
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. In situations where effective communication is not so straightforward mediation can help to work out suitable arrangements. It can also minimise the risk of children being “caught in the crossfire”.
About Lisa Russell
Lisa’s expertise in family law spans over 14 years and covers all aspects of child law, representing clients in the High Court, County Court and Family Proceedings Court.
Lisa acts for parents, children, grandparents and Local Authorities in proceedings. She also advises and represents parents, children and other family members in relation to private law children act proceedings. Lisa’s clients value her empathetic manner and sensible approach.