Q: My ex-partner and I are in a parenting dispute. The court has delayed the matter because of the lockdown. How can I progress this?
A: This is a very difficult situation that the lockdown has caused for many parents.
If your matter has been vacated or adjourned, there is not much you can do to speed up the process. You can have your lawyer write to the court to ask for a new date to be allocated as soon as possible.
Alternative dispute resolution
Because the courts have had to delay non-essential matters, it is important to start thinking about other ways you might be able to progress your matter.
• Can you contact your lawyer or the Lawyer for Child to advance the matter?
• Can you have a roundtable meeting with the lawyer on the other side and the Lawyer for Child to reach an interim solution?
• Are there documents that need to be filed that you can start preparing now?
It is important to remember that the process will be slower than usual because of the delays that everyone is facing.
Family dispute resolution
Online counselling or therapy
It is challenging to have very limited time with your children. I would suggest you seek out some form of online counselling to assist you.
I don't have my child during the lockdown. How can I get contact?
If you already have a shared care arrangement and you live in the same community as your partner, you should be able to continue your existing shared care arrangement. Contact has been encouraged as long as you do not compromise the health of either family or the wider community.
If you do not have an existing care arrangement or there are complicating factors, such as a requirement for supervised contact or the existence of a Protection Order, consider forms of indirect contact.
I would suggest that you reach an agreement for a phone or video call at a specified time and day each week. That will provide some certainty as to contact.
I am staying with my new partner during the lockdown. Can I continue with the existing shared care arrangement?
Where movement between homes is permitted, the priority is ensuring that children remain in a contained bubble.
You can continue the existing shared care arrangement as long as your new partner doesn't have children of their own who in an existing shared care arrangement.
If your new partner has children with their own care arrangements and you and your partner's children are moving between homes, then the children are coming into contact with people from a range of sources. Situations like this where day-to-day care is shared between more than two households are considered a 'complex' care arrangement. This is not permitted under the guidelines as your children should be staying in their bubble during the lockdown.
The dominant consideration is for parents to make decisions that are in the best interests of their children. Parents also need to consider the health of family members over the age of 70 or those who have pre-existing conditions, if they live in the same household.
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- Jeremy Sutton is a senior family lawyer. Jeremy answers your family law questions relating to Covid-19 once a week. If you have any questions, please it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions should not exceed 200 words. Please provide a phone number. Your name will not be published. Jeremy cannot answer all questions, correspond directly with readers, or give legal advice. Jeremy's advice is of a general nature, and he is not responsible for any loss that any reader may suffer from following it.