The official instruction to “stay home” announced yesterday makes social distancing especially difficult for separated or divorced parents with children who spend time between two families or with siblings or other family members who are doing likewise.
On TV this morning Michael Gove’s comments concerning children moving between separated parents’ homes did appear to directly contradict the instructions given by the Prime Minister in his address to the nation last night.
The full and detailed guidance on staying at home and avoiding others, available in several languages, can be seen here.
A briefer pdf which covers the main points of the government instruction to remain indoors can be seen here.
However, divorced and separated parents across the country can now, it seems, breathe a sigh of relief as in his Twitter account, Mr Gove, the MP for Surrey Heath and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has clarified the position:
“I wasn’t clear enough earlier, apologies. To confirm - while children should not normally be moving between households, we recognise that this may be necessary when children who are under 18 move between separated parents. This is permissible and has been made clear in the guidance”
Despite this clarification, divorced or separated parents will still be expected to adhere as far as possible to the restrictions in place and limit their and their children’s exposure to others. Whilst the government ban on gatherings of more than two people will not apply to people who live together, parents will need to consider how they can limit exposure to the virus in their households.
This may involve a change to the usual care arrangements. For example, you could look at limiting the amount of time you would usually travel between homes and agree longer periods of time the children spend in each household.
For guidance on agreeing child arrangements at this time see our earlier Insight article concerning the impact of school closures and stricter social distancing measures on contact and shared care arrangements.