While the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in Wales has come as a welcome relief, and children are slowly starting to return to school, it hasn’t by any means been plain sailing for parents.
Lockdown has proved a pressure cooker environment for many, and not all relationships have survived the strain of being together 24/7 while juggling home schooling. In fact, data published by the CAB last September showed a 25% increase in enquiries surrounding separation and divorce.
However, as kids return to school and some adults are returning to work, this brings a new set of challenges for separated parents who may disagree. Here’s just some of the issues that are commonly arising:
- Parents in different parts of the UK following different rules and concerned about visitation.
- Co-Parents disagreeing over the extent to which Covid rules should be interpreted and followed at home.
- Parents disagreeing over which school or nursery their child should return to.
- Parents keeping children at a private nursery rather than school to avoid the child having to follow socially distancing rules in the classroom.
These may seem like new issues arising from a new Covid-created environment; however, the ground on which they are based – co-parents who disagree – is a well-trodden path that family law solicitors are used to helping clients overcome. Here’s how parents stand:
Visitation when Parents live in different regions with different COVID rules
The law has been really clear on this since the beginning, no matter where each co-parent lives, access and visitation should continue as normal, so if a parent lives outside the 5-mile travel restrictions, or even across the border in England, they are still able to travel as normal to maintain existing arrangements. As regards returning children following access, nothing has changed, and family law solicitors will support parents in the same way they always have to ensure that agreements are followed.
Parents with a different approach to following the rules
When one parent rigidly takes a literal approach to following the rules laid down by Government, while the other has a less strict interpretation (possibly breaking the law) and encourages the child to behave similarly, it can give rise to conflict, especially if other family members are shielding.
Similar disagreements may arise over children’s vaccinations or medical treatments for other issues.
Where it is not possible to agree on the way forward, whether together or via a third-party mediator, it may be necessary to seek a specific order issue from the Court, who will make a decision in the child’s best interests. In cases like this, we always recommend speaking to a family law solicitor to guide you through the process.
Parents who disagree on key educational decisions
Key decisions in a child’s life, such as which school your child should attend or whether they should attend at all, are common areas of disagreement among separated co-parents.
However, it often comes as a surprise to the custodial parent that these decisions must be agreed by all those who have parental responsibility. If one parent disagrees, the school or nursery might not allow the child to attend.
In the first instance, parents may be able to share their concerns with the school or nursery concerned, as it may be a simple case of one parent needing reassurance. Likewise, it is possible that mediation via an independent third party can reach a solution which everyone can agree on.
However, if parents still cannot agree on important issues like schooling, they can ask the Court to make a Specific Issue Order, which both parents will have to comply with.
Talk – but get it in writing
Obviously, when it comes to decisions about health, education and wellbeing, if parents can find a way to communicate and reach an agreement, this is the best solution, however we recommend writing down any agreements to avoid complications further down the road.
Ideally, you should be able to reach agreements together and/or work with a mediator, however our family law team are always happy to answer your questions and help you reach a solution as amicably as possible, via the courts if necessary.
If you have shared custody of a child and require advice and support from the legal team here at Hutchinson Thomas, whatever your challenge, dilemma or question, we’ll be happy to help.
For more information on family law and childcare, contact Debbie Richards on 01639 640 513 or email email@example.com