Coping With Access During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Updated: Apr 8


INTRODUCTION

It is a difficult time for the world. What more if you are actually in the midst of a divorce or a custody battle in Court or when you have divorced your spouse but there is still access issue to deal with. It can be very confusing and traumatizing for separated parents who share custody of the children and for the non-custodial parent who has been denied access to the Children due to this pandemic. Here is what you can do, or rather what you should do to deal with this situation in the best possible way: -


ACCESS TO CHILDREN

1. Now that the government has imposed the Movement Control Order, it is common for the non-custodial parent who has access rights to the children to be left in the dark as to what their right for access is during this pandemic.


2. What form of alternative arrangements can be made at this time?


  • Mutually agree on replacing the access of the non-custodial parent once the pandemic is over;

  • With technology, video calls, phone calls or text messaging is now possible whereby the Children can still interact and communicate with the non-custodial parent;

  • If the custodial parent is unwell, the non-custodial parent shall have custody of the children for the time being;

  • if parties live close by, the relationship is amicable, and parties are in good health, the non-custodial parent may visit the Children at the custodial parent’s house;

  • If parties live close by and all parties are in good health, the non-custodial parent may bring food, books or toys for the Children and drop them off at the custodial parent’s house.


3. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help parents navigate through this difficult time.


Non-Custodial Parent


DO’s


1) Understand the rationale behind the movement control order i.e. the importance of social distancing.


2) Understand that you or the custodial parent may be living with people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (i.e. older adults, people with respiratory problems, those with serious underlying medical conditions), which makes access not advisable in such circumstances.


3) Have an open discussion with the custodial parent about your concerns and be sure to come up with an alternative arrangement that is reasonable and which has taken into account both parties' interests and convenience.


4) Keep a record of all communication with the custodial parent.


5) Acknowledge that the custodial parent is trying their best to cater to every need of the Children i.e. physical, emotional and mental.


DON’T’s


1) Jump into conclusions and assume that the custodial parent is deliberately denying access.


2) Force the custodial parent to allow access with the Children especially if either party are unwell, unfit or living with people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (i.e. older adults, people with respiratory problems, those with serious underlying medical conditions)


3) Have an argument with the custodial parent in the presence of the Children


4) Harass the custodial parent to allow access despite there being an alternative arrangement being agreed upon


5) Insist for access (i.e. video calls and phone calls) during the custodial parent's working hours when you have knowledge that he/she is working from home


Custodial Parent

DO’s


1) Understand and acknowledge the non-custodial parent feelings as a mother or father who is not able to physically see and spend quality time with the Children


2) Have an open discussion with the non-custodial parent regarding your concerns and be sure to come up with an alternative arrangement which is reasonable and which has taken into account both parties interest


3) Keep a record of all communication with their non-custodial parent


4) Be open to suggestions and allow replacement of access once the pandemic is over


5) Encourage the children to communicate with their non-custodial parent over a video call, phone call or text messages


6) Update the non-custodial on the educational development of the Children during the quarantine period


DON’T’s


1) Deliberately deny access to the Children


2) Accuse the non-custodial parent of being unreasonable and jumping into conclusions that he/she is deliberately making things difficult for you.


3) Have an argument with the non-custodial parent in the presence of the Children.


4) Deny his/her access i.e. phone call or video call despite there being an alternative arrangement being agreed upon.


5) Insist for access only to be allowed during the non-custodial parent's working hours when you have knowledge that he/she is working from home


6) Withhold information on the Children’s development during the quarantine period


4. We strongly encourage parents to be a team during this difficult time and put aside their differences to come up with a reasonable arrangement for the sake of the well-being of the Children. Parents must acknowledge that Children require validation and comfort during this time and that frequent communication of the Children with both parents during this period can help the Children get through this anxiety-provoking situation.


5. Parents should recognize that the Children who are already confused as to why they are not able to go outside to play and meet their friends shall not be subjected to additional stress and anxiety due to their parents not being able to see eye to eye when it comes to their wellbeing.


6. Parents should always bear in mind that in deciding custodial disputes, the Court’s paramount consideration would be the welfare of the children. Hence, parents should view this crisis as a test of their ability to co-parent and should always act reasonably and in the best interest of the children. Rest be assured, the Court will look into how both parents had handled this situation and there are ample precedents to demonstrate that the Court’s are inclined to award custody to the reasonable and co-operative parent.

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