Coronavirus Q&A: Can children visit separated parents during lockdown?

Is it acceptable to drive the kids the short distance between our homes?

This question comes from a reader who’d like to remain anonymous. They ask whether their current visitation arrangements are acceptable:

‘I am on good terms with the father of my children (who are five and seven) and his partner. The children split their time between our homes and spend time with both of us across the week.

‘Last week, when households were advised to self isolate for 14 days if they had any symptoms we believed we needed to treat yourself as one household split between two houses and so should one of us show symptoms we would all isolate.  As yet we are all fit and well.

‘Now the country is in lockdown we are hoping to be able to continue transferring the children between our homes, and because of that we continue to be one household . Today we decided to start driving the kids the short distance between our homes to reduce any risks to a minimum. 

‘Is this acceptable under the lockdown arrangements?  Neither of us want to stop spending time with the kids regularly (and we don’t think that would be in their best interests).’

Here’s what our family lawyers had to say:

Yes your current arrangements are acceptable. With regards to the arrangements for your children, parental responsibility for them rests with you and your ex-partner. There is an expectation that you and your ex-partner will care for your children by acting sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for them and deciding where and with whom they spend time.  You must abide by the rules on staying at home and staying away from others issued by the Government on 23 March 2020. In addition to these rules, advice about staying safe and reducing the spread of infection is being issued and updated by Public Health England and Public Health Wales. 

The Stay at Home Rules have made the general position clear. It is no longer permitted for a person, and this would include a child, to be outside their home for any purpose other than essential shopping, daily exercise, medical needs or attending essential work. With regards to child arrangements where parents do not live in the same household, children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ home, as you are currently doing.  This establishes an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirement.

The decision whether to continue the children continue to move the children between homes is for you and your ex-partner to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances including their present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other. If you need to stop the movement of the children then they can continue to have a relationship with their father by using Face-Time, Whatsapp, Zoom, Skype, and telephone.