SOME parents in the Forth Valley who do not live together are running into difficulties with child contact arrangements in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

Members of the central Scotland group of Shared Parenting Scotland, and across the country, have reported problems with contact arrangements after restrictions on movement were put in place.

While some parents have agreed to change existing court orders or arrangements on a temporary basis, and indeed some who had been in dispute reported an improvement in relations in this time of crisis, a number of people are experiencing difficulties.

That is despite the fact that movement between parent’s homes is permitted if no one is showing symptoms of Covid-19 and after a sensible assessment of vulnerabilities.

Ian Maxwell, national manager of Shared Parenting Scotland, said: “We are receiving many calls and messages about how the current restrictions on movement will affect child contact arrangements.

“The UK Government guidance, reiterated by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood, sets out that moving children between their parents’ houses is permitted.

“We are asking parents who do not live together to consider the importance to their children of knowing that both their parents are there for them during this frightening time.”

A key message is that while the virus might alter the “letter” of a court order, the “spirit” of the order should be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements.

If there genuinely is a health concern and people are self-isolating, contact should still take place over the phone or via online video chat, added Jackie Young, solicitor at the MFY Partnership in Airdrie, one of the rota of pro bono lawyers attending a monthly shared parenting group in central Scotland.

Jackie mainly deals with those who are experiencing problems and might feel the crisis is being exploited to stop contact arrangements altogether.

She said: “The courts have made it very clear that if someone is ill or vulnerable and they are in self-isolation the children should be made available by phone or FaceTime so they can keep communication with both parents.

“We are finding a lot of clients are coming to us for advice, what they should do if mums are refusing to answer the phone – that’s a very common thing.”

Concerns are being raised both by parents who have the children and are worried with a difficult and demanding ex partner, also parents who are finding contact is being withdrawn inappropriately.

Jackie added: “We are also advising people still to take account of their children’s views and think what it’s like for the children at the moment.”

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