Practical tips for making contact work in the Coronavirus outbreak

In these difficult times arrangements in nearly every aspect of life are changing rapidly. This will include living and contact arrangements for the children of separated parents. If possible, parents will need to work together to agree necessary changes.

With thanks to Denise Findlay and Birketts for allowing us to share this content. The original article can be found here.

Set out below are some points to consider.

1. Make use of Zoom, WhatsApp video calls, FaceTime and Skype. Agree that these calls can take place more regularly than may have happened before.

2. Allow time for children to make a video for the parent they may not be able to see as regularly.

3. If children are able to move safely between their respective parents’ homes, agree what is and is not appropriate during their time with the children. For example, are both parents in agreement that it is not appropriate to take the children to the supermarket or to a local park, or is that something both parents would feel comfortable with if appropriate supervision is in place.

4. Agree on what is expected in relation to school work now that the schools are closed. Draw up a daily timetable for schoolwork that each parent will be able to follow taking into account their own work commitments. Most school work is online but if it’s not, and the children are still moving safely between homes, parents need to make sure that the children have the books and resources they need.

5.  If one parent is missing out on time with the children, consider agreeing additional holiday time later in the year. Parents need to be as flexible as possible with arrangements.

6.  Whatever adaptations and changes are necessary, children will need to feel reassured that their parents love them and will be there for them in whatever way possible. We need to remember that the current situation will be causing most children anxiety and it is therefore even more crucial than ever to minimise parental conflict.

5. If you can’t agree on changes to arrangements, consider an urgent telephone/webcam meeting with a mediator or trusted neutral third party.

Sadly, there are many parents for whom communication is difficult or impossible. If agreement cannot be reached or one parent feels that they are being unfairly excluded, an application can still be made to court. The Court will be dealing with court hearings remotely. However, this is very much a last resort and specialist legal advice should be obtained before making an application either to enforce an existing arrangement or make a new one.

If you would like to discuss any of the matters raised above, please contact Denise Findlay or a member of Birketts’ Family Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at March 2020.