Last night Boris Johnson announced restrictions on movement unprecedented in most of our lifetimes – not even during the 1st and 2nd World Wars were citizens directed not to leave their homes save for exceptional (and prescribed) reasons. Public gatherings of more than 2 people are banned, as are weddings and baptisms (funerals are allowed).
The Prime Minister has declared a ‘moment of national emergency’ enabling the police to enforce the new lockdown/quarantine (call it what you will) measures which includes fines for any breach. As has been the theme of this crisis, the announcement has left many confused about what they can and cannot do. In summary, all non-essential businesses must close with the only outlets remaining open being those delivering food, medicine, health care, hardware, post offices, laundrettes, banks car rentals and newsagents.
We can only leave our homes for one of the following four reasons:-
- Shopping for necessities – as infrequently as possible;
- For a medical need which includes providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person.
- One piece of exercise a day such as going for a run, a walk or possibly a cycle and this must either be alone or with members of your household;
- Travelling to and from your place of work if that work is essential and cannot be done at home.
Further, the Government states that:
‘These four reasons are exceptions – even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.’
Undoubtedly these new measures are causing alarm and concern for all of society. As a family lawyer, I found that many of my clients were instantly panicked about whether they could see the children they do not live with, or, whether they could facilitate their children moving to the other parents’ home during lockdown. Parents’ confusion was heightened on early morning Britain today 24th March where Michael Gove informed Susanna Reid that the new measures meant that ‘children should stay in the home they are currently in and should not be moving between households…’ Susanna Reid called this ‘roulette lockdown.’
I am pleased to say that Michael Gove have corrected his earlier comments and has since clarified and confirmed that children under the age of 18 can move between the homes of separated parents. This is supported in the Government Guidance which can be found at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others particularly the following paragraph is essential reading for families:-
‘If you work in a critical sector outlined in this guidance, or your child has been identified as vulnerable, you can continue to take your children to school. Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes’
My message to parents during this difficult time is to limit the movement of your children. If possible, increase the time the children spend with each parent to say 1 week on and 1 week off. This arrangement would result in a) more quality time with each parent whilst the children are off school and parents are at home b) as above, reduce movement which is the purpose of the lockdown and c) offer an opportunity for any symptoms to show (parent or child) during the time with one parent thus hopefully reducing the risks of transmission.
Clearly there is the risk that the children will be with one parent and that family must put themselves into self-isolation. These are the unprecedented times we now live in and we just have to roll with the punches and get through this as best we can – hopefully unscathed.
For any family law advice, whether it is coronavirus related or general family law enquiries, please feel free to contact me [email protected] or telephone 01892 337542 or 07765 237879 or any member of Thomas Mansfield’s experienced and highly regarded family law team on 020 3733 1246.
Stay at home and stay safe.