During this time of great uncertainty where we are told to practice social distancing and limit contact with anyone outside our immediate family, the question arises: what happens if we have two families?
It is sensible for separated parents to give thought to this now, so that everyone knows what will happen in the event we are confined absolutely to our homes, or if one parent or household is in self-isolation now.
The practical reality will be different for every family. If there is a court order in place stipulating contact or residence then have a look at this, consult with the other parent, or a lawyer if necessary, and agree some contingency planning measures.
It is essential that each parent approaches this sensibly and sensitively. Agree in which household the children will remain for this period. It may make sense to action that now. If one parent or household is in self-isolation, decide what should happen at the end of that period. It is a decision for the parents to make, bearing in mind who is in the household and assessing the level of risk. Ensure that the children have everything they need in that house i.e. school work, clothes, favourite toys, medicines if necessary.
Use this as a time to explain to the children what is happening – that this is for their own safety and the safety of others, to help prevent the spread of this awful virus. By using this time to make arrangements, any transition will be easier for the children and it will also allow you to put in place other measures for contact.
We are fortunate that we can benefit from FaceTime, Skype and other such technology to keep in contact. This is particularly useful in these difficult times and some people will find that contact increases as it is so easy to communicate with someone at the click of a button! Ensure that the children have access to a device at the appropriate time for this contact to take place. Agree what times, if necessary, contact will take place and through what method. Perhaps the other parent will also be able to help with homework remotely and a video session can be set up for that to happen. Perhaps the other parent can read a bed time story over a video call. These are difficult times but technology allows us to be creative and each parent can still participate fully in their child’s life even if they are temporarily not able to do so face-to-face.
The important thing is to have the discussion now. Just as we are all making contingency plans for work and in other areas of our lives, a contingency plan for your children’s arrangements is essential.
If you would like a free half hour video or telephone call please contact Head of Family Law Emma Wakeling.