Most parents will have been left worried by the prime minister’s lockdown announcement – none more so than those who live separately. The question on every co-parent’s lips: will I be able to see my child (or children) over the next few weeks – or even months?
The confusion wasn’t lifted by cabinet office minister Michael Gove appearing on Good Morning Britain to say children couldn’t move freely between households. “Children should stay in the household they are currently in. We should not have children moving between households,” he said, before backtracking a few hours later and admitting he was wrong.
Under the new government guidance, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes if parents don’t live in the same household.
As Natalie Wiles, a chartered legal executive at Langleys Solicitors, tells HuffPost UK: “The government has now clarified that it is ok for children to spend time with each parent where there are separate households and that existing arrangements should be maintained.”
While this will be a huge relief to many families, how do you implement safe and responsible co-parenting during such difficult times?
Co-parenting advice during coronavirus
Communication between separated parents is “vital” right now, says Wiles.“It is important to remember that both parents will usually share parental responsibility for any dependent child and that parents should keep each other informed in relation to the health and wellbeing of their children,” she explains.
Older children should be included in conversations, too – especially now they are no longer at school or seeing their friends, and having to adjust to a new reality.
Pam Stallard, 32, from Brighton, is currently co-parenting with her ex Amber, 33, and Amber’s mother, Liz. Their three-year-old son Cole has been spending time in both homes – and the family plans to continue sharing childcare during the lockdown. Pam, Amber and Liz have been self-isolating for the past week since Pam, a teacher, showed symptoms of coronavirus. How do they make it work?
“The absolute key is communication, and I am so lucky that my ex and I have a really good line of communication and it’s been improving since the need has arisen,” Pam tells HuffPost UK. “We support each other and understand that by helping each other, we’re making Cole’s life better, which is the most important thing of all.”
Managing self-isolation between households
Everything co-parents do, every choice made, should be in the child’s best interests. A child needs stability and routine – and maintaining this, while also keeping them safe during the outbreak, is paramount. There will be some tough calls in the coming months. One of the biggest questions is how people navigate self-isolation if they, or their child, gets sick.
If one household in a co-parenting set-up does show symptoms, it’s important to follow the lockdown guidelines and self-isolate for 14 days – and yes, this means parents in different households both self-isolating if they want a child to move between their homes freely.
“I do all the driving to keep different places to a minimum,” says Pam. “Today I will collect Cole from Nanny’s (Liz’s house) and bring him home to me, then tomorrow afternoon I will take him to Amber, obeying all social distancing rules and only going from my house to the car, and the car to her back garden.”
When the family comes out of the lockdown, Cole will be going to nursery on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday so that Amber and Pam can both work – “mostly from home, but there is a rota at school I will have to commit to,” says Pam. When this is avoidable they will keep their son at one of their homes.