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Co-Parenting When One Parent Has Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

There is still a lot of uncertainty around the current Covid-19 outbreak, but the risk of catching the virus has not gone away completely, so how do you navigate co-parenting if one parent has Covid-19 (Coronavirus)?

Firstly, let’s looks at the recommended practice where one parent may have presented with symptoms of Covid-19 in a separated household. In short, if your child is living with you and the non-resident parent has Coronavirus symptoms (or vice versa), contact should not happen. In these circumstances, stopping contact is unlikely to be seen by the Court as unreasonable, or to be in breach of an existing Court Order.

The official UK Guidance for households displaying symptoms can be found here and identifies the following:

  1. Stay at home for seven days from when the symptoms started.
  2. If you live with others and are the first in the household to have symptoms of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), the other members of the household must not leave the house for fourteen days.
  3. If another household member shows symptoms, the seven day counter resets, regardless of what day they were in the original isolation period.

Guidance from Sir Andrew Macfarlane, President of the Family Division, has clarified that, whilst children under the age of eighteen can be moved between parents’ homes to facilitate contact, it does not mean that all children must keep travelling for contact visits.  The Guidance states that:

“Even if some parents think it is safe for contact to take place, it might be entirely reasonable for the other parent to be genuinely worried about this.”

If one parent is, therefore, worried that moving their child would be going against public health advice, they may

“exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe”

even if the other parent does not agree.    Where this is the case, Family Courts will expect parents to facilitate contact by video chat or phone.

What do I need to be aware of if I am co-parenting and one of us gets Covid-19 (Coronavirus)?

Parents should be aware of the following:

  • Do not go out at all if they or anyone in their household are demonstrating any symptoms for 14 days;
  • Avoid taking children to any public place where there could be a gathering of 2 or more people, do not visit children’s playgrounds and preferably avoid public transport;
  • Maintain social distancing from others of at least 2 metres, even on handovers;
  • Continue to follow guidance on self-isolation if children are deemed to be vulnerable;
  • If appropriate, take copies of any Court Orders/ correspondence which sets out contact arrangements when travelling to and from contact.

Make sure that you communicate regularly with the other parent and keep communication civil. People are understandably scared, confused or frustrated, but when communicating remember the priority is your children and ensuring they feel safe, loved and able to maintain a good relationship with you both.  If you can, have a conversation with the non-resident parent about how you are going to manage this time and what you will do if one of you becomes ill. Discuss ground rules you plan to set together for the benefit of the children to act in a way that conforms with government guidelines around Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and revise these plans as the guidelines continue to evolve.

If physical contact cannot take place between the children and non-resident parent for legitimate reasons, use other methods to ensure the children maintain their relationship with the non-resident parent.   Try to arrange indirect contact via an app like Skype or Facetime – it’s not ideal but it will be the safest option. The key point is to try and maintain the relationship with the non-resident parent as far as you can.

If you have any further questions about co-parenting when one parent has Covid-19 or in relation to contact arrangements in general, then please do not hesitate to contact us.

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