Joint/shared custody: who gets to look after the children?

Maintaining child arrangement can be a challenge at the best of times. With the government announcing a total lockdown yesterday, Monday 23rd March 2020, there is a lot of uncertainty about who gets to look after a child when parents are separated at these unprecedented times in our society.

The divorce rate is likely to go up as more people are working from home, self-isolation or confinement. Register offices in China have revealed that divorce rates have risen while the country has been in lockdown to tackle the Coronavirus crisis. It is believed there is a direct link between partners being forced to spend more time together in a restricted space. In the UK we have a similar situation where divorce rates are at their peak after the Christmas holidays.


What are the new rules announced by the Prime Minister?

Here in the UK, people will only be allowed to leave their homes for:

  •  Shopping for basic necessities “as infrequently as possible”;
  • One exercise outing a day – for example, a run, walk or cycle;
  • Medical needs or caring for a vulnerable person;
  • Travelling to and from work, but only if this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

Unchartered territory for divorced couples

For new couples, it is a unique opportunity to get to know each other. “For some, the prospect of being quarantined with their partner will be a welcome opportunity to spend time together, yet for others, it may force simmering tensions in their relationship to rise to the surface,” said divorce lawyer Amanda Rimmer.

“While we all try to navigate this pandemic as best as possible, it wouldn’t surprise me if, when the dust settles, we do see an increase in couples seeking to end their relationship.” 

Parents that have already been divorced or are going through a divorce may be unsure just how their custody and parenting time schedules come into play. With school closures in place to slow the spread of Coronavirus, normal day to day life is coming to a halt. Some parents are already questioning what their obligations are in regards to continuing the schedule they had in place prior to the crisis.

What if one of you is a ‘key worker’?

Understandably, parents are worried about Coronavirus and are doing everything they can to keep themselves and their children safe. Divorced or soon to be divorced parents must recognise that the other parent still has a right to see their child. If neither parent has been diagnosed with Covid-19, and both are taking the precautions recommended by the NHS, there should be no reason why parenting time cannot continue.

Try and come to an agreement to let the child live with the parent working from home and apply a bit of common sense during this difficult time. If you already have a court order, and cannot come to an agreement, then the court order will continue to take effect.

What if one of the parents is in quarantine?

If one of you has been exposed to the virus, then we would encourage you to work towards a resolution together in how to proceed with keeping the child in contact with the exposed parent through the use of technology; such as Facetime, Skype etc.; while they are in self-quarantine or receiving treatment.

What is of paramount importance is to keep a line of communication open

As things are going to change on a regular basis, you must try to work together and be flexible with one another. Keep in mind that if one of you refuses to comply with your Court Order based on your concerns or as a way to purposely interfere with the other parent’s ability to see the child(ren), there may be legal ramifications further down the line.

The real challenge for handovers in public

For some parents, contact handovers are conducted in public places and can prove to be a real challenge. It is best advised to follow government guidance and where possible, find a suitable public space to transfer the child between cars where the address of the vulnerable parent is not to be disclosed.

Your child(ren) wellbeing should be at the forefront of any discussions

We strongly advise that you focus on the wellbeing of the children. These are undoubtedly unfamiliar circumstances to all involved. If everyone behaves reasonably towards one another, then you can work through it. The Court will consider the welfare of your child when trying to organise new arrangements.

Try to use this time as a chance to co-parent and show your children that both of you can work together during difficult times. If you are being denied visitation or are worried about complying with the same, because of a possible risk imposed by the other parent, please contact a children solicitor for further advice.

The best recommendation is to get professional advice from a qualified law expert. Visit

Related Article: How to divorce amicably?

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