What happens to contact arrangements if a “local lockdown” is imposed?
As with all the restrictions connected with COVID-19, travel to continue contact arrangements is an explicit exception. The Scottish Government Guidance connected to the Aberdeen local lockdown is here.
Of course the health of the child is important and both parents will want to ensure the child is travelling from one healthy household to another. The local lockdown shouldn’t be used to disrupt safe contact whether it is court ordered or established informally. Equally, contact shouldn’t be pushed if there is legitimate concern that one parent may have been contacted through track and trace or even may suspect that s/he may have been in contact with one of the local outbreaks.
I have contact time with my kids coming up but my ex has told me they won’t come because of Coronavirus. What should I do.
If communication isn’t good with the other parent there is a tendency to be suspicious, quite apart from the upset that comes with losing time with your children. At the present moment (though the situation is changing at short notice) if neither the children nor their parent – or you – have been in direct contact with someone diagnosed with Coronavirus then contact ought to take place if there is agreement between parents or a court order. There is official guidance supporting this and the lockdown law includes this as an exclusion in the movement restrictions. Parent Club also has useful information
The decision might be being made in good faith, although overcautious. However, even if you are suspicious there is no great purpose in having an argument. Our advice is to demonstrate that you are a responsible parent with concern about your children’s health. You could reply – by text or e mail so you have a record of it – asking for some form of Face Time with your children during the time you should have had them. If the other parent is being genuine there will be no reason to refuse. If there is no prohibition on sending anything through the post you can send a cheery card saying that you hope to see them soon. Government guidance is that self-isolation should be 10 days if no symptoms have developed in the meantime.
How can contact time be arranged?
There are many ways of dividing the time that children spend with each parent. Factors such are how far apart the parents live, work patterns, the age of the children and whether child maintenance can be agreed can affect what works for each family. Here are some of the patterns that are commonly in use:
- Week about – children spend one full week in one household and the next week in the other household.
- Split weeks – the children spend four days with one parent then three with the other, reversing this pattern the next week.
- Days about – may be best for young children so that they do not spend too much time away from either parent.
When the children are at school age it is also necessary to work out a pattern for the holidays that allows for longer periods with each parent.
How can conflict be avoided at contact handovers?
For older children, it is sometimes best to pick up and drop off children at school, rather than at the house of the other parent. Handovers can be a hard to manage both for parents and children, and if arguments cannot be avoided then this is one way to make things easier. Children can find the transition from one parent to the other very difficult, as it a time when their loyalty to each of their parents is tested. It’s not unusual for children to become withdrawn or distressed at this time, which sometimes leads to both parents getting the false impression that something is wrong in the other household. Try your best to remain calm and positive if the handover is with the other parent, and if difficult things are said just don’t be provoked into responding. Attending a Parenting Apart course or training organised by Shared Parenting Scotland helps to build up the skills to deal with these situations.
What can I do to get more time to see my children at Christmas?
If your court action requests time with your child at Christmas remember that the sheriff will only consider the childrens feelings, not yours. Some sheriffs will agree to splitting the day between parents, whereas others are more likely to agree to let you have them on Christmas day on alternate years. You might even come up against a very old-fashioned sheriff who feels that children should be with their mother at Christmas. Your lawyer should know what the local sheriff are like. Try asking for what you think is reasonable but be prepared to back down quickly if there is resistance – if you can show you are being reasonable and willing to negotiate that will strengthen your case. See the factsheet on Christmas.