Expert advice for separated families during COVID-19

The extra pressures and stresses at this time can be hard to manage and are likely to cause anxiety for parents who are separated and their children. 

Educate speaks with Julie Ann Waring, partner at Morecrofts Solicitors, for guidance on the matter: 

The government has confirmed that both parents can still spend time with their children during the coronavirus restrictions and a parent cannot use the restrictions on everyday life as a tool to stop or restrict children from seeing their other parent. 

If there is a court order in force it can have serious implications if breached. A party found to be in breach of an order may be fined, imprisoned, ordered to undertake unpaid work or have their assets seized. The penalty is at the discretion of the court. However, if a person breaches the order and the other party applies to court for enforcement, the court may not impose sanctions if the breach was reasonable and proportionate in all the circumstances. 

For those where parental contact is normally at a dedicated centre and not in a home environment, this will now have to take place over Skype or Facetime as an alternative. 

The journey between co-parents needs to be managed in line with the current coronavirus guidelines. Common sense needs to be adopted and one must consider the potential risk of the virus against a child being denied contact with the other parent and how that would impact on them. 

While it is a very unsettling and scary time for us as adults, can you imagine how it would be from a child’s mind? It is therefore vital as parents to ensure as best as possible that they are kept to their same routine. 

There needs to be consistent messaging between parents with regards to hygiene/health measures in each home. Try to have one set of clear and agreed rules in both homes for the protection of the children. 

I currently have a case where the parties are hostile, yet on this issue they have both agreed to impose the same measures. A good tip would simply be to not critique the other parent or be confrontational as it achieves nothing, the best approach would be to ask how the children are in washing their hands etc. Don’t go with the approach of “what are you doing etc? – they will already in all likeness have measures in place so it will get their backs up! 

As many families have holidays planned, and unfortunately a lot will be cancelled, the children should still be able to spend the week at home with that parent and will amount to a breach of a court order if one is in place. 

Whilst the pandemic can cause upset to the usual routine, although you should both try your hardest to ensure it doesn’t, reassure your children that this is only a temporary measure and that things should return to normal soon 

I would suggest having an open and honest approach with your children, depending on their age. If they have a good understanding on what is going on, it will make it easier to explain that this is only a temporary thing and everything at some point will be back to normal.  

During these times, encourage Skype, Facetime and any other means for your children to contact each parent. There should be no reason to impose time restrictions in relation to the duration of the calls, unless it is during the hours of home schooling. However, try and keep to a routine, for example, every night at 6pm etc.  


Here’s some useful resources for parents available at this time: 

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing

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