The restrictions brought in by the Government as a reaction to coronavirus (COVID-19) left thousands of parents incredibly worried about how this would impact on the time that they spend with their children. This time was particularly concerning for parents with vulnerable children, or if the relationship between separated parents was difficult. Some parents were told that they would not be allowed to see their children or had to, for safety reasons, make the difficult decision to not spend time with their children.
This was made even more challenging as it was unclear when the restrictions would be lifted. Whilst some were able to have communications with their children via video call, this would often be very difficult if parents were trying to engage with younger children.
In response to this, we shared a lot of guidance through our website. One particular article entitled 'Coronavirus and Child Arrangements' was viewed 22,000 on the day it was published and since that time has received a total of 94,000 views. This translated into hundreds of calls and emails over the last few months from parents looking for advice and support from our specialist lawyers.
In an attempt to try and slow the rate of infection, various parts of the country are now subject to local lockdown measures. It is very important that you carefully consider the local guidance to determine how this may impact on your child arrangements.
For the rest of the country, the Government has now brought in the 'rule of 6' in an attempt to simplify the restrictions. The principle being that when seeing friends or family who live outside of your household (or you have formed a support bubble with), you are unable to meet in groups of more than 6. For England, what is important, is that the rule of 6 also includes children. Anyone found to be breaching these rules may be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £200, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400.
However, there are exceptions where groups can be larger than 6 people. These include for work, registered childcare, providing support to a vulnerable person, weddings (although numbers are limited to 15 people) and funerals (although numbers are limited to 30 people).
Importantly, one of the exceptions is for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both parents. This is particularly important for parents that have a number of children with their ex or are now in a new relationship and have had additional children or are living with step children so that the numbers in the household exceed 6.
Whilst the exception applies to enable parents to see their children, it is important that you consider any other risk factors whilst the virus is still prevalent. For example, if any person is particularly vulnerable. You should also maintain good personal hygiene and where possible adhere to social distancing rules.