The Family Court will review each family’s circumstances when considering child custody arrangements. It will then make a unique decision based on their specific situation and needs. We are currently working with separated families that are struggling to decide quickly if it is sensible for their children, particularly during the lockdown, to move between their homes.
To help separated families and those with Child Arrangement Ords, guidance has been made regarding child arrangements. But is it clear enough?
The guidance suggests that separated families use their common sense when deciding where children should reside during the lockdown period. They should also consider how the Family Court might perceive them if there are any disputes about their behavior. Arrangements can be reviewed later by the court.
This guidance is very helpful for separated families working together to determine whether or not children should be moved between homes in these difficult times. Parents may not be able to determine if their children are at risk from infection if they move between their homes. This is because government advice can change so quickly.
It is more difficult for parents who cannot communicate with one another and cooperate when there are no clear rules as to what they should do if a reasonable agreement cannot be reached. It is difficult to understand why parents may find it difficult to compromise during this time of great stress. The infection mustn’t spread to other families and the society at large. Maintaining contact with both parents is essential for the child’s health. The good news is that they are not necessarily incompatible. Technology and social media allow for indirect contacts, such as telephone calls, skype, and house parties, even if physical contact is impossible.
These are some principles that you should keep in mind as you search for the best solution for your family.
- Consider safety first when making decisions. This includes your family, your children, and the larger community.
- Consider how the Family Court may view your decisions if you have had experience with the court system.
- Get legal advice if necessary to determine if a decision would be sensible and approved later.
- Always keep your children’s best interests at heart. Family Court follows the same approach and will always be attentive to your children’s best interests in all circumstances.
- Establish trust and communication to facilitate discussion, cooperation, and joint decision-making
- If you both agree that your children should remain in the same home, then find ways to allow them to communicate with each other and vice versa. Do this as soon and as possible.
- If you have extended family (e.g. step-children, multiple carers, etc. Establish a ‘circle’ of family members and work together to assess the safety and health risks. This is not only the right thing, but it will also show that you have carefully considered your decisions.
- If the family has vulnerable or shielded members, keep in mind that self-isolation and social distancing are likely to last for a longer time than is normal for most people.
It might be helpful to listen to episode 2 of our podcast with Mariella Frostrup and Kate Landells of relationship researchers OnePlusOne. To learn how to communicate effectively and manage disputes, and Episode 1 – where David King, Deputy Head at Croydon High School, talks about how parents and children can cooperate, but if something went wrong here’s the family law firm surrey.