The Easing of Lockdown and the Effect on Separated Parents
*Sponsored Editorial by Consilia Legal
As you are no doubt aware, Boris Johnson has recently announced his roadmap out of lockdown and back to some form of normality. Subject to certain conditions being met, the aim is for all restrictions to be lifted by 21st June 2021 at the earliest. Lockdown restrictions will be eased gradually in four stages with the first stage beginning on 8th March.
Throughout the pandemic families have adapted to working from home, home-schooling, alternative arrangements for children and much more. But now there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, many people and families are asking what happens next once all the restrictions that have being imposed on us for the last year are gone?
The position in relation to a child’s relationships with their parents has remained the same since the very first lockdown was ordered in March 2020, in that children can move freely between their parent’s separate households. However, this has not always been the case for some families where they have had a vulnerable family member in their household. Some other issues that I have commonly seen is where one person is exposed to Covid in their line of work and the other parent has raised concern in relation to the exposure of the children to the virus. In some cases, parents have had minimal contact with their children for a substantial period of time and they are keen to get back to normal with the easing of restrictions.
There have also been disagreements between separated parents in relation to home schooling or lack of it from one parent and this has caused a strain to their co-parenting relationship.
In some cases one parent may have taken a more active role than they were used to due to furlough or working from home and they may not want to go back to being a weekend parent and have got used to spending more time with the children and they do not want to go back to the pre-Covid routine.
The Roadmap out…
The roadmap set out by the Prime Minister outlines four steps for easing restrictions. An assessment will be carried out before we move onto the next step. This assessment will be based on four tests:
1. The vaccine programme continues successfully;
2. Evidence shows the vaccines are reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated;
3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS; and
4. The Government’s assessment of risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.
Provided each of these four tests are met at every review date, England’s lockdown will move through the four steps at five-week intervals commencing on Monday 8th March. The five-week interval allows four-weeks to analyse the data which may reflect changes in restrictions; followed by seven-days’ notice of the restrictions to be eased.
Step one will commence on Monday 8th March. This will see the return to schools for all students, exercise and recreation outdoors with one other person from outside your household and wraparound care including sport for all children. Step one will be further extended on 29th March to include meetings outdoors with two households as long as the gathering does not exceed the rule of six, all outdoor sports and leisure facilities will open, all outdoor children’s activities can take place, as well as all outdoor parent and child groups that don’t exceed fifteen members.
Step two will commence no earlier than Monday 12th April. This will see the reopening of all retail and personal care, most outdoor attractions, indoor leisure, outdoor hospitality, libraries and community centres, indoor parent and child groups, all children’s activities and self-contained accommodation. Domestic overnight stays with members of your own household will also be permitted.
Step three will commence no earlier than Monday 17th May. This will permit gatherings of no more than thirty people outdoors and the rule of six will return for indoor gatherings (subject to review). Indoor hospitality, entertainment and attractions will reopen. All remaining travel accommodation and outdoor entertainment venues will also reopen. Step three will also see the return of outdoor seated events of up to 10,000 people; outdoor standing events of up to 4,000 people and indoor events of up to 1,000 people.
Finally, step four will commence no earlier than Monday 21st June. This will see all legal limits on social contact lifted (subject to review) as well as allowing international travel.
Life after Covid…
As families begin to plan for life after Covid, new adaptations may be required once again for access to children, child arrangements, school and education issues and holidays abroad. It is only natural that as the economy starts to open back up both parents, as well as extended family members, will want to spend time with children doing all the things they have missed out on for the best part of a year.
Communication between parents and families will become increasingly important as the opportunity to do more with children and extended family opens itself up over the next few months. However, communication between parents can be difficult when agreement seems unlikely and there is difference of opinion.
It seems that you only need to look on social media or read the paper to see that so many people are divided by their approach to Covid and this may add a strain on separated parents where one parent is more relaxed with the ‘rules’ than the other.
Communication is the key when discussing the health and wellbeing of a child. To aid communication between parents, there are a range of professionals who can assist including lawyers, mediators and therapists who are equipped with tools and helpful resources to get through the turbulence.
Some helpful resources to help separated parents is the ‘Our Family Wizard’ app, which is a communication app to help parents to co parent. I have used this with several families who have felt that it has assisted them to keep each other updated with key information. Another useful resource is the ‘The handover Book’ written by Ashley palmer and Leigh Moriarty available on Amazon. This is a book that is passed to each parent at handovers to record key information.
At Consilia Mediation we can help you and your former partner reach arrangements for your children. Through the process of family mediation we can help you to reach mutually agreeable proposals regarding your children. Mediation can also help you to improve/maintain a healthy dialogue as parents so that you can parent together more effectively in a post-COVID world.
One of the major benefits of the mediation process is that we recognise that as parents you are best placed to make decisions around the care of your children. We also acknowledge that each family is different and you need to asses each case on its own merits and there is no ‘one size fits all’ in relation to separated families. Our role is to facilitate those discussions so that you are able to make decisions for the benefit of your family going forward.
If you would like further information or to make an appointment to see one of our qualified solicitor mediators please contact Consilia Legal on 0113 322 9222 or email us at email@example.com.