Legal director at Rayden Solicitors in Bishop's Stortford on child arrangements in the pandemic
Abby Westell, legal director at Rayden Solicitors in Bishop's Stortford, answers the question 'Has the pandemic altered the status quo of child arrangements?'
Many families will have had to adapt their arrangements over the last year while juggling child care, home-schooling, working from home, caring responsibilities, and many will have shared that responsibility with their children's other parent.
For some, prior to the pandemic there may have been an informal arrangement in place, while for others, there may have been a court order setting out arrangements. A change in those arrangements during the pandemic may have led to one parent seeing more of the children than the previous arrangement provided for.
I have received many enquiries asking whether the change in arrangements and responsibilities during the pandemic constitutes a permanent or a temporary change and whether it has changed the status quo, so often relied upon by the courts.
It is certainly worth thinking about. It may be that the pandemic has brought about an opportunity for parents to work more closely together in co-parenting; they may have more empathy for the other parent having taken part in home-schooling or the juggle of work and caring; or it may have been a temporary arrangement and normal service resumes now that we're out of lockdown.
For some parents, the move to home-working on a more permanent basis may bring about the ability to take on more of the everyday care of the children, such as school or nursery runs, after-school clubs etc. In that case, they may seek to move from the previous routine towards a more even balance between parents.
In all cases, much can be achieved through effective communication. If one parent is resistant to the change and seeks to revert to the previous routine, prior to the pandemic, then the question for the courts may well be 'has the pandemic driven change, altered the status quo?'
If time spent with your children had only been at weekends and during holidays but during the pandemic had moved to midweek stays, are you now in a position to make that a longer-term arrangement? Is your work willing to remain flexible in allowing you to work from home and could you manage a school pick-up every week? Have an open conversation with your children's other parent and see whether matters can be agreed amicably.
The important point to remember is that you should always aim to put the needs of the children first and work together so that co-parenting is as effective as possible and works for all parties.
If you do find yourself in such circumstances it is always sensible to seek professional legal advice to discuss these issues.
You can contact Rayden Solicitors by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01279 881371. See www.raydensolicitors.co.ukto find out more.