Looking after the kids in lockdown: what should separated or divorced parents do during coronavirus?
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Now more than ever, it’s vital to stay on good terms with your ex for the sake of your children.
Lee Bailham from the family law team at Leeds Day Solicitors explains what contact arrangements are available for separated parents and how they can help you make the best decision for your child.
Q: What options do separated parents have during lockdown?
The government announced children can move between parental homes during the lockdown and existing contact arrangements can continue.
This only applies to parents that have ‘parental responsibility.’ These are the legal rights and responsibilities you have to your child. A mother, married or not, has these rights automatically from when the child is born, but unmarried fathers don’t.
If you don’t have parental responsibility, you can’t demand contact with your child during lockdown.
It’s your decision if you want to continue pre-existing contact arrangements during COVID-19. You should consider your child’s health, their risk of infection and if your child has any underlying health conditions that could put them at risk.
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Q: How can separated parents maintain good communication?
Using a solicitor as your communicator can help. We can remain objective and reduce tensions between each parent. Going through a divorce or separation is difficult, emotions are high, and the relationships can be fragile.
A third party can help you make the right decisions and focus on what’s best for your children.
Always try to keep a healthy and polite dialogue with one another. Lockdown may cause a breakdown in communication, affecting your contact arrangements.
You could try going to mediation. You can air your concerns and wishes about ongoing child arrangements. An independent mediator can help you resolve your issues and come to an agreement for you. Some mediators are currently offering appointments via Skype or Zoom.
If this doesn’t work, you may have no choice but to issue court proceedings and allow a judge to define contact, but this should be a last resort.
Q: What if I’m prevented from seeing my child?
If this happens, you may need to ask for a court order to define the child arrangements. However, it won’t result in immediate action and may take several weeks before it comes before a court.
I’d recommend contacting your solicitor to inform them of the situation, they can advise what’s best to do. Separated parents should use email to communicate instead of text. Emails are easier to reproduce and will record all your messages.
Q: When should I seek legal advice?
It’s vital to take legal advice as soon as possible. This way you can make informed decisions about your family’s future.
You need to understand all your available options to make the right decisions at the right times. If court action is the only alternative, we’ll help you achieve your goals and reach a fair decision.
We offer a full range of family law services in connection with children or financial disputes.
Q: Are solicitors open during lockdown?
We’re following government advice and abiding by social distancing measures. Our lawyers are working from home via a secure virtual office.
You can arrange an appointment with any of our highly qualified solicitors over the phone, Skype or Zoom at short notice or as a matter of urgency.
Leeds Day Solicitors have offices in St Neots, St Ives and Huntingdon.