Separated parents in lockdown: Yesterday, (10 June 2020) the Prime Minister announced his further plans to ease the country out of the lockdown which included allowing single-parent families (with children under the age of 18) to mix with other family members in what has been described as a ‘bubble’ with effect from one minute past midnight on 13 June 2020.
But what does this mean?
Essentially it means that if you are a single-parent family, you can mix with one other household which then constitutes your ‘bubble’, the idea being that additional support can be given, with child care being an example.
This is the most significant lockdown restriction change, in respect to single-parent families at least, since the restrictions were first imposed on 23 March 2020. At this time, the restrictions were that everyone was to stay at home. The one exception to the rule was that separated parents could transport children between each other to ensure that they were able to spend time with them both.
Impact of lockdown on separated parents
The current lockdown restrictions have certainly impacted separated parents and, over the last 12 weeks, I have supported numerous clients where one parent has been completely prevented from seeing their child(ren) due to the pandemic.
Along with new cases, I have also witnessed an increase in people breaching Court orders by stating that the child(ren) are self-isolating or fall within the high risk/vulnerable category and therefore cannot spend time with the other parent.
In cases where the matter has already been within the Court arena, I have experienced a variety of outcomes, some judges being extremely sympathetic to the pandemic, other judges forming an ‘it’s not what’s safe, it’s what’s fair’ approach. Of course; there is no precedent in unprecedented times.
Single parents and bubbles
So, how will the relaxation of the restrictions impact separated families, particularly ones where either party is a single parent?
In the absence of a crystal ball, it is difficult to say, however, theoretically, if both parents are single parents, they would each be able to form their own bubbles and, if children are passing between them both, they would then be exposed to four separate households.
From experience, particularly how people reacted to the restrictions being imposed back in March, I imagine that parents may not be overly thrilled with the prospect of their children potentially mixing with 4 different groups of people.
That being said, as the rules are that as single-parent families are permitted to mix with other ‘bubbles’, then children should not be prevented from being able to do so, unless there are legitimate reasons why not, such as they have COVID-19 symptoms.
Rachel Joyce is a Solicitor in the Stowe Family Law office in Beverley.
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