Alice Blackmore on COVID-19 and its effect on child arrangements

Here at Gough’s Solicitors we have continued to expand following further successful years under our belt. Our latest recruitment comes in the form of extending the family department.

Alice Blackmore has joined the family department as a Solicitor in the Chippenham branch and specialises in all aspects of family law, including divorce and separation, financial matters, injunctions and arrangements for children. Alice is a member of Resolution and as such advocates a non-confrontational approach to the resolution of disputes. Prior to joining Goughs Alice was a solicitor at a leading law firm in Plymouth where her case load predominantly consisted of injunctions and complex children matters involving domestic abuse.

Alice said “I am thrilled to be living and working in Wiltshire and to be part of a leading Legal 500 accredited family team.”

“Family matters and the issues arising from relationship breakdown are often complex which is why I always take my time with my clients to achieve the best possible outcome for them. My aim is to make the process less daunting by adopting a sensible and supportive approach.”

At this challenging time we have asked for Alice's expert opinion on children's matters and how they may be affected.


 

Covid-19 and the impact on child arrangements

By Alice Blackmore

In light of the government announcements and guidelines where people are being asked to refrain from social contact and to isolate, many separating families are facing difficulties in relation to the arrangements for the children. Of most concern are the scenarios whereby parents are living in a threatening and controlling environment and are extremely vulnerable but feel they have no way out. These points will be addressed.

Child Arrangements Orders

If you have a Child Arrangements Order in place then this should be adhered to wherever possible however, where this is not possible then communication with the other parent is absolutely key. This is going to impact on a number of families following the government’s announcement yesterday regarding school closures across the country and with parents who are still required to work.

Whilst schools are closed, it is important that you stick to a routine with normal meal and bed times and any other family routines your child(ren) take comfort in.

The recent guidance released from Cafcass states that unless there is a justified medical/self-isolation issue or some future nationally issued guidance or expectation associated with leaving the house in your area, children should maintain their usual routine of spending time with each of their parents. If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place this should be complied with unless to do so would put the child or others at risk. This will provide the child(ren) with a sense of consistency whilst reassuring them that the parent they do not live with is safe and healthy.

It is crucial that both parents practice sensible hygiene and continue to follow the government guidance such as hand washing, more often, for 20 seconds and clean and disinfect regularly touched surfaces.

Flexibility will also be a major factor as parents will not be able to rely on high risk grandparents or other relatives who may be deemed high risk for other health reasons.

If one parent finds them self in a situation where they have to self-isolate and is unable to see their children then technology is a great way of ensuring contact is maintained. Perhaps think creatively about how you can support your child to enable them to stay in touch with their other parent and family members. Skype and Facetime can be great and can be used to read stories and sing together. For older children you could gather to watch a movie for example. In these difficult times, one must always consider what is in the best interest of the children and this must be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Parents are going to need to work together more than ever to do what is best for their children.

Furthermore, given that the government have put in place guidance surrounding travel, unless it is absolutely necessary, parents will need to think carefully about plans they may have made. As always parents should liaise with one another over any holidays even if these were in the UK.

When communication breaks down

Where parents cannot reach an agreement then we recommend that you take advice from a solicitor as soon as possible. We strongly recommend doing so quickly and ensuring that the support structures are in place now, so that if and when things become impossible to manage at a co-parenting level, there is a back-up plan for solicitor and potentially court (while it remains open) intervention.

Domestic abuse and the urgency to act now

In relation to those circumstances where there is domestic abuse in the relationship, action must be taken as soon as possible whilst there is still the ability to do so. In these circumstances one may feel compelled to stay in an abusive relationship because they have no way out but, we all know the effects of prolonged abuse and the effect the has on the children and the parent who witness it first hand. We urge you not to delay taking advice if you find yourself in this scenario and we are here to help you achieve the level of protection you might need.

Support is available

This is going to be a very difficult and uncertain time for everyone but our family team at Goughs are here to support you every step of the way and we have measures in place to ensure we can work remotely and facilitate video calls where necessary.

Get in touch via family@goughs.co.uk, call 01249 444499 for further details or book your free 30 minute consultation